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Business has a way of inventing its own vocabulary. Often, the results are disappointing—long, Latinate words like formalize and utilize and monetize, or Frankenspeak like impactful or learnings. Such words are often created to make the person who uses them sound clever and smart. But they are really nothing more than obese, bloated versions of themselves.

Of course, words can shift and expand in meaning, too. As E.B. White noted in the seminal The Elements of Style: "The language is perpetually in flux; it is a living stream, shifting, changing, receiving new strength from a thousand tributaries, losing old forms in the backwaters of time."

And perhaps nowhere has that flux been fluxing with more speed and agility than in the world of Marketing. Interestingly, social media and technology are driving much of the shift—particularly of common words that existed for generations with a single, specific meaning but now find themselves with a complexity of depth and meaning that might surprise even the words themselves—that is, if words had the capacity to self-reflect. Which, of course, they don't.

Take "friend," for example. For generations, a "friend" was simply an ally. A supporter. Someone to regard with affection and trust.

Then Facebook comes along, and suddenly the meaning of "friend" is called into question both in an existential way as a noun (Is someone a "friend" even if I've never met them, but only know them online?) as well as a verb (as in To add someone to your list of people you are connected to online).

What other words have expanded and morphed in our newly social world? A bunch, including tagging, recommend, traffic, search, link, viral, link, visitor, surf, blast, ping, feed, alert, tweet, find, status, stumble, troll, bandwidth, at, check-in, and vote. But probably these 12 are my favorites:




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image of Ann Handley

Ann Handley is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author who speaks worldwide about how businesses can escape marketing mediocrity to ignite tangible results. IBM named her one of the 7 people shaping modern marketing. She is the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a LinkedIn Influencer, a keynote speaker, mom, dog person, and writer.