The Departures Modern Glossary March 2013

Bendik Kaltenborn

The terms that define us now.


One who dresses in costume and often engages in role-playing, particularly at conventions.

“Cosplay” is not a particularly recent phenomenon (the word dates back to the mid-1980s), but the number of cosplayers has swelled in direct proportion to the increasing number of Comic-Cons—the most well known of which began in San Diego in 1970 and which now appear in more than 20 cities in North America alone—and, of course, superhero movies.

Cry Face

The physiognomy of a person in tears.

Never underestimate the power of the Internet to take a quixotic, harmless meme (this one is based largely on the remarkable flexibility of Claire Danes’s features on Homeland) and turn it into some long-lasting and ugly thing. “Cry face” has already begun to transition from applying solely to the manufactured tears of a thespian to any photo of some poor soul weeping.


Acronym for “You only live once.”

“YOLO” has distinguished itself not only through its near ubiquity (it has appeared in tweets innumerable) but also by the teeth-gnashing rage it occasions in anyone over the age of 30, even earning the rare distinction of being included on the annual list of words to be banished from English compiled by the Lake Superior State University for the past 37 years. The widespread opprobrium “YOLO” has received is, paradoxically, a likely sign of its health; after all, in order for millions of people to hate a word, it must be in use by millions of others.


A computer program or product that is announced but never released to the general public.

A barnacle of a word that emerged about the same time (the early 1980s) as “freeware” and “shareware.” Originally applied to the duplicitous advertising of putatively upcoming software, today it can also describe any non-computer product for which there is doubt as to whether it was ever intended to be released.


A neologism denoting an irrational fear of not having one’s mobile phone.

The English vocabulary suffers from an embarrassment of riches, not least in its ability to name phobias of various stripes. We have words to indicate the irrational dread of clowns (“coulrophobia”), tapeworms (“taeniophobia”) and even everything (“panphobia”), so why shouldn’t we include the fear of being without one’s beloved mobile device?