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The Boston Globe

Ideas

The Word

Let’s go owling!

Where trends go, the language follows

If you’ve been within shouting distance of the Internet over the last six months, you’ve probably heard of planking, a social-media-driven pastime involving lying facedown on some unlikely surface, arms against your sides, very still, while someone takes your picture. As adolescent pranks go, planking is fairly innocuous, although one young Australian man did fall to his death while trying to plank on a balcony railing last May.

Both the gerund form of planking (though it’s also known as “the lying-down game” and “extreme lying down”) and the idea of taking ridiculous photos in uncomfortable positions have become extremely productive--at least linguistically. Apparently, ubiquitous cellphone cameras (both still and video), high spirits, and the Internet add up to limitless photo-fad variations. If you can think of a noun and add –ing, it seems, you can find a picture or video of some absurdist interaction with that noun online.

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