Will ‘gendy nooch’ ever make it into the dictionary?

On most grounds, the new shortening of ‘gender neutral’ fails to qualify—but be wary of writing it off
May 10, 2023

New words pop up all the time. If you trawl the internet each day (as lexicographers do) and minus all the words that already appear in dictionaries, you would be left with thousands of terms that never made it in, and never will. Many of them are hapax legomena, words with only one written instance, which will fade as quickly as they were created. But some new words will survive. It is difficult to anticipate what direction the life of a word will take. 

Gendy nooch caught my attention recently when Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary added it to its “watchlist”. It is a term of endearment for something that is suitable for all genders, a shortening of “gender neutral”, usually referring to toys, names, bathrooms and clothes. Sometimes, it is used to describe people or situations considered politically correct or “woke”, as expressed by Twitter user ­@zoeySevignyXIV: “As much as I enjoyed Eid this year, a lot of it was marred by family members with boomer mentalities regarding gender neutrality and people’s lifestyles in general. My partner and I played a silent game where we’d just whisper ‘that’s not very gendy nooch of them’”.

How does a new word get into a dictionary? It can’t just be a fad. It has to have longevity and preferably be used in a variety of online and printed sources. Gendy nooch is currently confined to social media and, mostly, people are discussing the word rather than using it in a natural way. This is a red flag to lexicographers. A word must be used in real life by real people to get into a dictionary. 

So what does it take for a new word to stick? There is no magic formula, but usually it has to be used by many people, to fill a gap in the lexicon and to sound “right”. Sadly, for gendy nooch, it fails on all grounds. It is not yet used by many speakers. It doesn’t really fill a gap as there are already plenty of words that describe all kinds of gender neutrality: nonbinary, allgender, polygender and, of course, gender neutral itself. And while some people think it sounds cute, others say that it sounds like a sexually transmitted disease or a slang term for a private body part. This may work against it. But these things are impossible to predict.

The cynic might accuse Macquarie Dictionary of clickbait. The realist might have to admit that there is something inexplicable about a word that gives it staying power, and gendy nooch might just have that “something”. As one Twitter user put it: “You might be laughing at it now, but give it a few weeks and you’ll be using it too.”