Do you speak the language of our time?

We hear them in the media, find them on social networks and, sometimes, even use them without always fully understanding their meaning. They permeate the spirit of the times, enrich our language and induce new ways of thinking, living or working. These are the words of the time. These terms, mostly imported from the United States, are a sign of the internationalization of our exchanges. “We must take these Anglicisms as a common code, a kind of user manual for our modernity, recommends semiologist Mariette Darrigrand*. No one is obliged to use them, but it is better to understand them!” Shall we do it?

Boomer: the clash of generations

While the term “baby boomer” originally referred to men and women born between 1945 and the 1960s, the term “boomer”, used alone, now takes on a pejorative meaning. It opposes the generation from the Glorious Thirties to the “millennials” or even to Generation Y, born from the 1980s.

By calling them “boomers”, they point to the responsibility of their elders (and therefore often their parents!) in the economic and climatic upheavals with which they are confronted, reproaching them, in passing, for their inaction and their outdated ideas. The word took off in 2019 after a 25-year-old New Zealand MP, defending before Parliament a measure to limit global warming, was criticized for her youth by an older elected official. His response, “Ok Boomer!”, a mixture of humor and sarcasm, spread like wildfire on the internet.

A word from Mariette Darrigrand, semiologist

“The post-war birth boom gave rise to optimism and enabled the advent of social and feminist advances. Millennials are the happy heirs. Whatever its detractors may think, the term “boomer ” expresses this surge of vitality, while “senior” suggests the onset of old age.”

Woke: awakening consciences

angry word, woke (“awake” in English) has arisen in the public debate in recent months, flooding social networks and TV shows.

Originallythis word was used in African-American circles to express awareness of oppressions of which they were victims and the need to emancipate.

By extension, it now designates those who, within minorities, stand up to social inequalities and the sexist, homophobic and racist discrimination they suffer. For its detractors, “wokism” (the suffix here adds a pejorative dimension) is a new face of “political correctness” and “cancel culture”, this practice from the United States, aimed at ousting historical or current personalities because of of their works or their words.

A word from Mariette Darrigrand, semiologist

“Woke” initially says the refusal of any discriminating words. Becoming “Wokism”, the doctrine goes so far as to prohibit certain terms and impose others. Talking about “racialized” or “misgendered” people, why not? But in complete freedom, not by making it a new norm.”

Greenwashing: washing greener than green

It could be translated as “greenwashing”.

The phrase appeared in the United States in the early 1990s in a context of emerging ecological issues. It is obtained by thea contraction of English green (“green”) and whitewashing (“whitening”). It is for companies to green their image at all costs. The term is often used by NGOs to stigmatize the communication strategies of companies aiming to pass themselves off as greener than they are. The automotive sector, touting its “clean car” concept, is accused of this type of practice.

A word from Mariette Darrigrand, semiologist

“Ecological transition requires in-depth changes to production and consumption patterns. It cannot afford words. This is what industry is accused of when it makes ‘green’ a mere facade of consciousness, without going through in action.”

Gender Fluid, one of a kind

Hard to escape! In the media as on social networks or in the hallways and high schools, questions around “gender” torment people’s minds.

The term “gender fluid” translated from English has become so common that it will appear in the 2023 edition of Le Petit Robert. But what does this concept mean? Claiming to be “fluid” means not feeling exclusively female or exclusively male. In short, it is to refuse the “binary” categorization assigned to us by our biological sexes at birth.

The emergence of the pronoun “iel”, mixing “he” and “she” bears witness to this.. The notion of “fluidity” has nothing to do with sexual orientation (gay, bi, lesbian), nor with a change of sex (transgender). Rather, it is the sign of opposition to overly rigid representations of the feminine and the masculine. In January 2021, an Ifop poll revealed that nearly a quarter of 18-30 year olds felt neither boy nor girl.

A word from Mariette Darrigrand, semiologist

“The notion of gender fluidity is presented as a novelty while the Greek myth of Tiresias already tells us that the human being has a psychic bisexuality. A theory confirmed by psychoanalysis.”

Flex Office: without a fixed desk

The “flexible office” appeared in the early 1980s in the United States. It means that the employee does not have a fixed workstation but shares an office, several. Resulting from the evolution of working methods and the increase in real estate prices, this mode of spatial planning has accelerated with the Covid crisis and the increased use of teleworking.

In France, the notion of flexibility applied to the business world is debated: some see it as a source of well-being and flexibility in the organization of work while others fear a loss of reference points and territory.

A word from Mariette Darrigrand, semiologist

“English often takes up Latin or old French. The “office” is the place where one works (officiates). Its moving, flexible nature poses problems – end of assigned offices, sharing of space within the open space – but let’s remember that sitting all day at your “desk”, the etymology of which refers to the “bure” robe of the medieval monk, can be very restrictive.”

Read also> New words quiz: Metavers, cloud, NFT, flex office… but what does that mean?

Metaverse: Internet of the future

A contraction of “meta” and “universe”, the term literally means “beyond the universe”. Designates a fictional, connected and immersive virtual worldin which users, equipped with a virtual reality headset, can lead a parallel life in 3D in the form of an avatar. In this cyberspace, it is possible to meet, work in video, discuss, have fun and, of course, consume by paying using cryptocurrencies. Virtual goods (works of art, land, virtual clothing) take the form of NFT certificates (in English non-fungible token, translated as “non-fungible tokens”) which fixes their value and uniqueness. Recently, Mark Zuckerberg, boss of Facebook (renamed Meta), made metaverse the future of his social network.

A word from Mariette Darrigrand, semiologist

“The prefix meta in Greek indicates a movement towards something. In this realm of the virtual, the technological advances taking place are revolutionary, and the vocabulary presents them to us as if they were science fiction. Let’s wait and see what will be completely offered to us before we are transformed into robots, zombies and computer graphics…”

Mariette Darrigrand is the author of “Virile like Venus”, ed. Equateurs

Do you speak the language of our time?