On this diet, senators get the ‘skinny’ | Newton’s Law

The word caught me unawares, even though I work in the word business. I thought it must be a typo — prolly — but then saw it again from another source and realized this informality existed just outside my reach.

Folks who study such things refer to this as frequency illusion, that thing when you notice something for the first time and then start seeing it everywhere.

From context, I could figure out that prolly stood as a truncated version of probably, a useful adverb of uncertainty. It has just two fewer letters.

That means something in the digital age. We’ve arrived at a time in history of limited characters in our communications. Twitter does not allow clutter, especially the type caused by trisyllabic words.

So we get a rising tide of words like prolly, used in earlier literary works as a dialectic variation but certainly now as a bouncy modifier with a certain degree of hipness.

(Not all abbreviations abbreviate in the cause of trendiness. Fans of “Parks and Recreation” will remember that character Tom Haverford, the resident purveyor of swag, referred to fried chicken as “fry-fry chicky-chick,” lyrical but not necessarily more descriptive.)

Skinny has gained a currency in the last week, though its etymology reveals no newness and modern culture has yet to assign it any shorthand.

Members of the U.S. Senate spent the week debating the federal laws involving health care. Republicans, holding the majority, have argued for years that the measure signed into law in 2010 should be repealed and replaced.

In truth, that slogan seemed eligible for an efficient shortening, something like “rep and rep” or “medical lotto.” Nothing of the sort arose.

It became apparent that the full repeal effort did not suit at least 50 senators, the number necessary for passage when you counted in a vice presidential…

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