"Trickeration": Is This Hot New Word Really a Word?
Describing the teams' eclectic playcalling, the game's announcer repeatedly used the term "trickeration." Evidently "trickeration" is getting to be the new "it is what it is" -- today on SFGate, the link to the Niners-Rams preview read: "With nothing to lose, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh expects a heavy dose of trickeration from St. Louis."
Is "trickeration" a word? Well -- it is what it is!
You won't find "trickeration" in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. But you do find it in the Oxford English Dictionary -- and have been able to for decades.
"It's really not a new word -- it's African American vernacular English," explains Grant Barrett, a lexicographer and host of the etymological radio show A Way with Words. Use of this term wouldn't be a head-scratcher for millions of black people -- some of whom are playing, coaching, and broadcasting in the NFL. "But it's surprising to most white folks. White folks tend not to believe there's a whole sector of the language, a lexicon of language, semantics, and grammar that belongs to African American vernacular English. It's a signifier, in a way. Until ['trickeration'] exploded onto the national media scene, it'd probably be a pretty good indicator you were black if you used it."
Per the OED, the earliest usage of the term is in 1940; in 1951 Langston Hughes wrote in Montage of a Dream Deferred, "I believe my old lady's pregnant again! Fate must have some kind of trickeration to populate the cullud nation." In the course of a five-minute Google search, however, Barrett discovered a usage that predates the OED -- a copyrighted song from 1932 titled "Trickeration."
Absent trickeration, it seems "trickeration" is a word coming into its own after hiding in plain sight for decades. "It's a sleeper," says dictionary writer David Barnhart, like Barrett, a member of the American Dialect Society. "I've been watching words for over 40 years, but I don't remember having heard or seen it before."
Barnhart got right to work, however, quickly documenting printed instances of "trickerate," "trickerating," and even "trickerator." You can read them here: trickerate.docx
The term "trickeration," like "hitterish" or other locker-room-generated sports terms, may not be welcomed by every listener. But it's hardly out of bounds for describing, say, a flea flicker. "It may not be appropriate for every situation,"notes Barrett. "But it's a straightforward, English word with certain connotations of humor."
So it takes a fairly narrow definition of "right" and "wrong" to label "trickeration" as "wrong." That said, announcers are most definitely wrong when they endlessly refer to reverse plays as a "double reverse."
It may be trickeration. But it ain't a double reverse.