"Mansplain"—the act of a man explaining something to someone, typically a woman, "in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing"—has been a part of our vernacular for a few years now. But writing for Slate, Katy Waldman says "-splain" itself has since become "squishy," specifically because it's lost the preciseness that made it so effective in the first place. "This suffix, once so useful, has fallen into a tar pit of sophistry and nonsense," she says. For example, although the term "mansplain" itself used to be a specific way to express the complexity of gender dynamics, it's now been diluted to describe any condescending explainer between any two people (even between two men) or even simply to illustrate a point made by a man that isn't inherently patronizing but something someone just doesn't agree with.
And the suffix itself has "'sploded in its own right," she adds, becoming generic enough that it's being used to simply, well, explain how someone or something explains something else (see how I just Jenn-splained that to you). Not exactly the "marriage of … irony and information asymmetry" that leads to conversation failure—one party thinking they're correcting a gap in knowledge when it's the other way around—as Waldman contends "'splain" should be used. Instead of keeping the "focusing of hostility" on the explainer, the suffix is increasingly being used to apply to the thing being explained (e.g., "'beersplaining' jokes [that] lampoon the snobbery around obscure craft brews"). "The trope has steadily hemorrhaged meaning," Waldman writes. "Then it was a crude rhetorical strategy. Now it's just a lazy joke." Her full take. (Read more opinion stories.)