This is doubleplusungood, as a famous defacer of the English language would say.
I understand that, at this point, we are in trapped in a little semi-vicious cycle.
The Oxford online dictionary comes out with its new words, and sticklers everywhere come out and stickle (is “stickle” a word? It should be! Get on that, OED). The indignation mill powers a few click cycles, and everyone is happy — until next year.
But the folks at Oxford Dictionaries have updated their online database of words, and it includes “mansplain.” (Also “amazeballs” and “neckbeard” and “humblebrag,” but I am going to let those pass, to focus on what is important here.) I understand that the whole point of a dictionary is to reflect usage, and these updates do exactly that.
But mansplain? For a man to explain something to a woman, in a condescending manner? Really? You say “See how feminism is influencing the language!” I say, “We have to draw the line somewhere.”
The only thing I hate more than the word “mansplain” is the phenomenon. But I really, really despise the word. It is one of a new breed of unfortunately common portmanteaus that don’t actually combine to create a new word that makes any sound-sense. Like “cronut.” These are new lows. They are just ugly. They aren’t puns. They aren’t anything.
Contrast this with “sext.” “Sex” + “text” = sext! It makes a kind of sense. See it, and you know whence it came and what it is doing here. Or spork — again, “spoon” + “fork” = spork!
Now consider mansplain. It is a horrible chimera with the head of a goat and the tail of a serpent and wings. It was assembled through a crude vivisection that spliced “man” onto “explain” and substituted an “s” for the “x” because “manxplain” sounds like the place where a tailless cat dwells. (Also, “splain” works because “‘splainin'” is a recognized form of explaining, but that did not make it pleasant to type or to look at.) This is not the kind of word that would survive in the wild, when words were words and you had to go up against Shakespeare’s latest coinages, old-form portmanteaus like “twangle” (“twang” + “jangle”). Take it off the constant life support of Twitter, and it withers and dies.
And good riddance. It is not just that the word is grotesque and ugly. The concept isn’t great either. Can’t we do ourselves a little Newspeak-ian favor and just uproot both?
I could not love feminism so much, loved I not language more.
I know we just added it. But please, take it out!