Blog Excerpts

Next!

Thanks to Chatroulette, the ridiculously popular website that pairs random strangers around the world for webcam conversations, we have a new verb in English: to next. Two language-related blogs explain what it means.

On his blog Wishydig, Michael Covarrubias examines the phenomenon of nexting:

From the Chatroulette anonymous video-chat craze are born all varieties of rules and strategies that soon become recognizable when wasting 15 minutes (or 2 hours) on the site.

And of course some new words. My favorite: next v.

What do you do when you see something or someone on your screen that you know you don't want to keep seeing? You next them. There's a handy little 'button' at the top of the screen that shuts them off and gives the chamber another spin. It's a lot of power.

I had been thinking that "to next" simply meant to hit that little button at any point in the conversation. According to this amusing and informative video, to next is more specific than that: it's clicking the button immediately on seeing the other person. He even provides his own little definition card for the word.

1. to be rejected, denied, cold dissed
2. when a random stranger clicks the next button immediately after seeing what you look like.

(Read the rest here.)

Meanwhile, on her Fritinancy blog, branding expert and Visual Thesaurus contributor Nancy Friedman provides further enlightenment:

Julia Ioffe profiles Chatroulette's founder, a Russian 18-year-old high-school dropout named Andrey Ternovsky, in a May 17, 2010, New Yorker article, "Roulette Russian." Here's how she explains Chatroulette and "to next":

The idea is simple. When you log on to Chatroulette.com, you see a sparse white window with two boxes. One box shows your own image, courtesy of your Webcam; the other is for the face of what the site calls, somewhat ambiguously, a "partner." When Partner appears, you can stay and talk using your voice or your keyboard, or you can click "Next," which whips you on to someone new. The point is to introduce you to people you'd never otherwise meet and will never see again—the dancing Korean girls, the leopard-printed Catman, the naked man in Gdansk.

More than a million people, most of them from the United States, clog Chatroulette's servers daily. To "next" someone has become a common transitive verb. Catman is an Internet celebrity, as is Merton the improvising pianist. Brooklyn bars throw Chatroulette parties, an indie band has used the site to début an album, and the Texas attorney general has warned parents to keep their children far, far away.

To next was not invented by Chatroulette users; its usage goes back at least to 2004, if Urban Dictionary's contributors are to be trusted. Here's a poignant January 25, 2004, definition for next.

(Read the rest here. And as a bonus, Nancy explains how Chatroulette got its name here.)


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Comments from our users:

Tuesday May 18th 2010, 2:17 AM
Comment by: chris P. (tallai Australia)
Does it work if you press "enter"??
Tuesday May 18th 2010, 8:15 AM
Comment by: Paul G. (Collegeville, PA)
Fascinating nuance.

I wonder how many such pop-influenced words and uses have the staying power to stretch through generations, like "man, cool, groove..." I suspect that, like most trends, such faddish words and phrases are ejected like candies from a Pez dispenser, and savored until they quickly disappear.
Tuesday May 18th 2010, 8:29 AM
Comment by: Geoff A. (United Kingdom)Top 10 Commenter
I marvel at the English language's capacity for constant innovation, especially its ability to change the grammatical identity of a word. A revealing (and fun) exercise is to look around and 'verbalise' all the nouns you see.

As I do this right now, I find many that have already been activated into verbs - to bowl, cup, tape, bottle, plate, picture, frame - but the fun starts when I hit upon words that are still trapped in nominal stasis, eg door and cupboard, and try to imagine what gap they could fill as verbs: to door someone or something? To cupboard an object or person?

What is amazing is that, given the need and the opportunity, we would recruit these nouns into the verbal ranks without hesitation. (I haven't checked, so 'door' and 'cupboard' may in fact already exist as verbs.)

I would love to know if this fluidity is peculiar to English or common in other languages.
Tuesday May 18th 2010, 8:48 AM
Comment by: Kris C.
I love your idea to "door" someone -- that should catch on! :) -- How about to "porch" someone...to set them aside or shun them. "Let's porch him for awhile until we think this through." -- :)We could "porch him before we decide to finally door him"! This could be quite a bit of fun -- I bet we could build a whole paragraph, even a short story using newly stolen nouns/verbs.
Tuesday May 18th 2010, 10:12 AM
Comment by: Ben Zimmer (New York, NY)Visual Thesaurus ContributorVisual Thesaurus Moderator
Kris: Funny you should mention porch as an example of a noun available for "verbing." In my On Language column last February on the Olympic verb podium, I wrote:
Words like podiuming and summiting, while sometimes perplexing or even irksome to outsiders, are part of a grand tradition of noun-to-verb transfers in English, which result in what linguists call â??denominal verbs.â?� In a classic 1979 paper in the journal Language, â??When Nouns Surface as Verbs,â?� Eve V. Clark and Herbert H. Clark observed that â??people readily create and understand denominal verbs they have never heard before, as in to porch a newspaper and to Houdini oneâ??s way out of a closet.â?�
Tuesday May 18th 2010, 6:07 PM
Comment by: Caren B.
While reading your article I realized that I have taken to nexting President Obama every time he comes on my TV screen. I also mute him. This has nothing to do with his looks. I do it because I don't think I can believe a word he says.

(My apologies to President Obama admirers.)
Tuesday May 18th 2010, 7:20 PM
Comment by: Geoff A. (United Kingdom)Top 10 Commenter
So 'to porch' as a denominal verb (thanks, Ben, for the technical definition of this phenomenon) already has two meanings:

1. to shun someone; to set something temporarily aside
2. to throw something, eg a newspaper, onto a porch

And I like your linking porching with dooring, Kris. So 'to door':

1. to permanently exclude someone; to discard something (especially a domestic item)

We say to 'floor' someone, but not to 'ceiling' them. But it would be a useful word, as in 'I'm handing in my notice, because my boss has definitely ceilinged me.' This would be easy to understand because of 'glass ceiling' which has probably been used as a verb by now.

I'd like to write an article about this for Literary Magic E-Magazine (I'm senior editor). Where can I read Clark & Clark's article, Ben?
Wednesday May 19th 2010, 10:53 AM
Comment by: Jane B. (Winnipeg Canada)Top 10 Commenter
'Porching' someone seems a useful notion! It's not quite so permanent as 'nexting'. And it can also apply to keeping someone waiting until you make sure of their intent.

Great idea! Great word!
Wednesday May 19th 2010, 12:24 PM
Comment by: Geoff A. (United Kingdom)Top 10 Commenter
So a porcher would be someone who habitually keeps people waiting. Such people exist and I don't think there's a word for them (a polite word, I mean!).
Wednesday May 19th 2010, 1:13 PM
Comment by: Michael F. (Brooklyn, NY)Visual Thesaurus Moderator
I often hear (and use) the verb form of door to refer to the act of carelessly opening a car door in such a way that a cyclist riding by runs into the door. It's usually used in the passive voice. "Being doored (to collide with the door of a car unexpectedly opened) is a prominent hazard." (from Wikipedia)

Is that term only used in New York City?
Wednesday May 19th 2010, 4:58 PM
Comment by: Geoff A. (United Kingdom)Top 10 Commenter
I've never heard it myself, but then I don't ride a bike. The word obviously serves a need and is very descriptive. My picture of New York car drivers is that they are an aggressive species (or is that just the taxi drivers?) so when they door a cyclist, they probably proceed to sue the cyclist for damage to their door!

I did door myself once. I had parked my car half on the pavement (sidewalk), so it was listing quite steeply. It was one of those boxy Volvo estate cars, and the door weighed a ton. When I returned to the car and opened the door, I didn't have a sufficiently tight grasp of the handle. The door swung at me and knocked me to the ground - I was well and truly doored.
Thursday May 20th 2010, 2:08 PM
Comment by: Denise A. (San Antonio, TX)
I've been using "next" since I saw that reality dating show show on MTV called Next! Same concept I think.

I've never heard of "to porch" though.
Sunday May 23rd 2010, 9:25 AM
Comment by: Kris C.
Okay -- here's another one. To "window" someone. For instance, "She was knew she had been windowed by her friends. Suddenly they knew all kinds of personal things aobut her life!" -- To window--- to look into someone life from the outside. "He felt windowed by an invasive world that just wouldn't leave him alone."...:)

One day Jeff woke up and felt totally porched by all his friends. They had been windowing him for weeks and he couldn't stop them. He knew that eventually the worst would happen...he would be doored by all for what they knew of him.
Sunday May 23rd 2010, 12:03 PM
Comment by: Geoff A. (United Kingdom)Top 10 Commenter
That's brilliant, Kris. You achieved your aim of writing a paragraph based on denominal nouns. I think the primary meaning of 'to window' would have to be 'via electronic means' (hacking, etc), to reflect (oops) the IT aspect of windows with a capital W.

Is this game keeping you awake at night?!

By the way, we must be allowed to modify the noun, by adding a verbal suffix such as '-ize' (UK '-ise') or '-ate', as in to lionise or to decorate. So we could have coined eg 'to doorize' or 'to porchate' (probably stressing the 2nd syllable), though these lose some of their power to shock, compared with 'to door' and 'to porch'. But it's more subtle, maybe.
Sunday May 23rd 2010, 1:02 PM
Comment by: Donna R. (Johnstown, NY)
The first I heard of this was on the show NCIS. Tony kept getting the
"next" button. Turned out McGee had fiddled with his computer, but not before Tony made a complete fool of himself.

I also "next" or mute a certain commercial in which he says how HUGE his car deals are.

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