WILF – new words for old phenomena
Updated on 07 August 2022
As vocabularies go, I think mine is relatively broad. I like words and savour them like a wine connoisseur might savour a good wine. When I find a new one, I say it aloud over and over, getting a feel for how it sounds and testing it to see if it will fit with the rest of the words I’ve stored away. At some level, I believe that the words we use are like a fingerprint, marking our individuality. I’ve been jolted out of a stupor on occasion when someone I find less than interesting suddenly uses a word that is completely out of character for them. I’ve been shocked out of complacency when someone I’d boxed as meek and mild lets loose with a stream of invectives. My theory is that we adopt words as our own as they fit.
For a while now, I’ve been struggling with the myriad new words that are worming their way into daily use. This morning, for instance, reading through the course texts for the upcoming online cybersecurity course, I came across a new word (new to me, at least): Wilfing. WILF: What Was I Looking For? It describes Internet surfing with no clear aim, in which the user has a need to be on the Internet, but does not know what to do.
I know many people, myself included, who wilf every day without ever logging on to the Internet. I walk from one room to the next in my flat and when I arrive wonder what I was looking for. I got to the supermarket to buy one thing and when I get there can’t remember what I’m looking for. So why is it only now that we’ve come up with a word to describe a phenomenon that has been around for years?