New words

Facepalm/headdesk

Much has been written (often negatively) about the effects of online technology on communication, with emoticons, emojis and abbreviations like LOL taking the place of the non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, gestures and laughter that are available to people having a face to face conversation. What is sometimes overlooked is the creation of new words to fulfil these roles. Take for example facepalm and headdesk, two words with similar meanings that have quite recently been added to the Oxford English Dictionary online. They both describe actions that are intended to portray emotions – putting your face in your hand, or banging your head on a desk to convey frustration, dismay or (with facepalm at least) embarrassment. These words can be used as verbs, nouns, (as in “Western military analysts responded with a series of face-palms and head-desks, having no other answer.” (Sydney Morning Herald, 10.10.2015)), and even as interjections: “I forgot you’d already been there. Facepalm!”. This grammatical adaptability perhaps gives words an advantage over emojis, but there is a facepalm emoji now available for the iPhone. So you might find yourself headdesking over which to choose.