Sunday, February 01, 2009

Keeping it bankster

Words pop in and out of our language as social conditions change. The American gangster, which is still with us, has been around as a noun and a reality since 1896 according to my Shorter Oxford, but it seems to have dropped another Americanism from the 1930s and I think now is the time to revive it. The word is bankster, derived by a marriage of banker and gangster.

So says Harold Evans in his Point of View piece for Radio 4. As he points out, we've absorbed loads of new words from American English, including hijack, hobo, rubbernecker and hitchhiker, but the time is maybe right to revive an older American blend that has dropped out of use: bankster.

It's an interesting article, as the fundamental point about language change reflecting social change is essential to an understanding of the ENA5 Contemporary Language Change essay question, which almost always asks for examples of new words and meanings, and a discussion about why language changes. All bankster needs now is an orthographic shift to become banksta and we'll have a really modern word. Keeping it real estate y'all...

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