Earlier this year media outlets across this country as well as across the pond– from the trendy, foodie-focused newcomers to the staid and traditional BBC– were all atwitter about the fact that “hangry” was one of the 1000 words added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) as part of its updated 2018 edition. The word had finally gained legitimacy, they trumpeted. The OED has long been viewed by scholars and linguists as being without peer and the definitive authority on English language vocabulary. New words are simply slang until they are given status and definition in the OED.
In case you missed the news reports or are otherwise unfamiliar with “hangry,” it is a term that results from the elision of “hungry” and “angry.” Its precise meaning, according to the OED, is “bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger.” To further elucidate, the dictionary provides example sentences among which are: “I get very hangry if I miss a meal” and “If I miss this snack I get a bit hangry by the time dinner rolls around at 7ish!”
If you are beginning to ask yourself what this vocabulary lesson has to do with NFESH and our mission, we’d like to respond with two example sentences of our own: “We are glad you asked” and “We are deeply concerned about the serious misconceptions regarding hunger that the ‘hangry’ characterization – or should we say caricature – portrays.” While anger may, and probably does, accompany real hunger, it takes much more than a Snickers bar to address and ameliorate it.
We are not being flip here or unfairly singling out one well-known candy bar brand. We are, however, making reference to a popular and humorous television ad starring Betty White that aired during the 2010 Super Bowl and that has been racking up literally millions of new giggles and views on the internet since the OED’s 2018 announcement.
Are we killjoys? No. Honestly we too thought the ad funny when it first aired, and we still do when it is taken in context. But at the same time, we see potential danger in the new word’s and old commercial’s gross, if unwitting, mischaracterization of being hungry – that is, of the need for consistent access to adequate amounts of nutritious food that literally millions of older Americans experience each and everyday in this land of plenty. The real irony here, if one is to be found, is that on any given day some of those folks just may be driven to settle for the equivalent of a Snickers in the face of actual, physical hunger. But that snack won’t satisfy their malnutrition, turn their moods or their lives in a positive direction, restore their health or strength or self-esteem. Quite the opposite.
If you haven’t done so already, we encourage you to visit our research page to review the most recent findings on just who is likely to be hungry, how many folks are afflicted, where they may live, and what the negative health consequences of inadequate nutrition are.
Once you do, we suspect that you will join us in thinking twice about ever again saying “I’m hungry” or “I’m starving.” And then there’s “hangry.” Here at NFESH we have tossed that one back in the bottom of the slang bin where it belongs, because even thinking about how it demeans a real and serious national problem makes us…well, angry. We hope you share our ire and that together we can harness that energy and transform it into resolve to rewrite the dictionary on reducing hunger in our nation.