Here A Hack, There A Hack, Everywhere A Hack Hack

Words Gear Graphic says tips tricks hacks adviceWhen I walked past the television set one morning to start my exercise routine, I heard something about “summertime hacks.” The show’s host was interviewing a guy who was providing tips for enjoying the outdoors and patio living.

Hacks? The use of hack in this context was new to me, so my radar kicked in. Within days, I found numerous online examples of hack:

The Strapless Bra Hack Your Summer Dresses Will Thank You For
These Travel Hacks Will Make Your Trip So Much Easier
Easy DIY Garden Hacks Make It Simpler To Return To Your Roots
Game-Changing Hacks Every Traveler Should Know
Check Out Tips & Hacks For A Fit, Fun Vacation

I was catching on: A hack was a tip or suggestion to solve a problem or make something easier. To see how far behind the times I was, I Googled hack for definitions. I found nothing about hack beyond the standard definitions:

verb: to cut or chop with repeated and irregular blows; to break up the surface (soil); to alter; to gain access to illegally or without authorization (as a computer file or network); to cough roughly or sharply; to annoy or vex, often used with off (to hack off); to clear, as if by cutting away vegetation (hacked his way through the brush); to manage successfully or tolerate (can’t hack a new job, can’t hack the noise); to play inexpert golf; to loaf (hack around)

Didn’t hack have enough meanings without adding yet another — and a meaning for which other words already exist?

Such is our wonderful English language and our creative culture that loves to launch new words that separate the avant-garde from the old guard. Urbandictionary.com has two listings under lifehack: a science-fiction novel about nano machines used to create a zombie outbreak; or a phrase that describes hacks, tips and tricks that get things done quickly by automating, increasing productivity, and organizing.

YouTube King of Hacks
My online search also revealed lifehacker extraordinaire and YouTube star David Hax (not his real name), who has dozens and dozens of free tips and tricks online that help make life easier or better. His hacks help you do things faster or smarter.

If you want to learn how to make a model motorboat, to pack efficiently for your next trip, to cut the perfect watermelon, or to remove lime scale from a tea kettle, David is your man. He and his charming British accent will get you where you want to be. And when a video is sponsored, he tells you so; this hacker has business ethics!

I feel enlightened to know that hack now has a more positive meaning than the one that keeps it in headlines so often these days with regard to stealing people’s credit card and Social Security numbers.

What are you hearing or seeing that catches you by surprise? Are there new words in headlines and elsewhere that seem to have come from nowhere?

For more on new words, misused words and all things grammatical, sign up for my monthly Killer Tips from a Ruthless Editor. You’ll get reminders of my blog topics as well.

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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Kathy Watson
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