I can’t help myself.  The closet linguist in me just had to pen a short post pointing out that whenever a major paradigm shift takes place, whether in the business world or as part of society, in general, a brand new set of terminology always seems to creep into the lexicon to describe the new concepts that have suddenly been born.

With the advent of the Internet era, for example, phrases like “surfing the web” and “cyberspace” and “ping me” suddenly became routine phrases in the vocabulary of many professionals.  And as mobile phones have grown in popularity, it’s no longer the slightest bit strange to hear somebody say they’ve just “texted” someone or to use the word “411” as a verb, meaning to look something up.  I’ve even noticed that the word “phone” itself is in the process of being phased out by most wireless companies in favor of the more versatile word “device” — since making phone calls is now just one small piece of the puzzle when it comes to the booming arena of mobile communications.  What does the future hold, I wonder?  Could the day actually be coming when we say to our kids or grandkids “hand me the phone” and they look at us with bewilderment?

At any rate, the two most intriguing terms that have popped onto my radar screen recently (prompting me to write this post) are staycation and funemployment.  These are both nouns, from what I’ve observed, and if I’ve deciphered their meaning correctly the word “funemployment” is used to express the idea that unemployment can be a positive opportunity to engage in a series of exciting projects, activities, and adventures that one can’t really indulge in when tied to the demands of a full-time job — whereas the term “staycation” simply means to use one’s allotted vacation time to stay home, relax, and catch up on things around the house.

Am I the first verbal astronomer to spot this emerging jargon?  Far from it.  To satisfy my curiosity, in fact, I Googled each term (also a word that wasn’t around 20 years ago!) and found plenty of relevant links.  The Urban Dictionary, for example, already contains full working definitions of the words funemployment and staycation, whereas Wikipedia also has a detailed entry on the latter term, available here.  And if you continue browsing through the Google results, you’ll find that these terms have even been used in major news stories from CNN, CBS News, and the New York Times.

So if you haven’t yet come across these freshly-minted phrases, hey, you heard it here first — and if you’ve got a few minutes to spare I’d urge you to contemplate what it means that our society suddenly felt the need (or at least inclination) to invent these new words.  To me, it says a lot about the “new normal” we’ve found ourselves in and what career paths are likely going to be like for the foreseeable future.  People are going to have to become more comfortable during periods of job transition, and learn to take advantage of them, while at the same time resigning themselves to burn some paid time off while employed simply to catch up on the many demands of today’s busy, go-go-go professional lifestyle.

Thoughts?  Observations?  Other words I might have missed that relate to “new realities” in today’s world of work?