ish: Approximately; somewhat, as in greenish.
No, that can't be. Or rather, it can, but then again, online dictionaries are cold-blooded and emotionless entities. Ish is the quintessential, distinctive element of modern-day Britain. It's the surrender of values long-heralded as representative of UK culture. Punctuality and promptness, stiff-upper lipness and pragmatism. Ish is the corrupting element that has eroded a whole culture with the same patience and dedication shown by the sea in its gentle and slow obliteration of the hard and rough rock.
Before moving to the UK, my acquaintance with ish was based on its use as a suffix. Not so in good ol' England! Fast forward to ten years later and I'm one of those people who will agree to meet someone else at '11ish'. Like most Britons, I use this ish as a friendly, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, relaxed and laid-back part of my everyday language, displaying signs of informality akin to my culture, but assumed to be at odds with the Anglo-Saxon social make-up everyone around the world is so accustomed to.
What makes people use this at-first-sight harmless and innocent-looking/sounding affix at the end of words like old, new, OK and so many others that I would need Moses' two stone tablets to write down the myriad ways in which people use them?
Take old, for instance. You have young, young adult, middle-aged and then old or elderly. What's wrong with this classification? Since when has it been politically incorrect to say that so and so is old? Ah, but there it goes, our wee, little friend ish to meddle in affairs that are of no concern to it. By saying oldish you're knocking a few years off the person in question. Not that they would object to that, mind. They are neither passé, nor spring-chickenish (you see?) anymore. They are just oldish.
Ish has come to save situations where a more direct response would have led to conflict. Take OK. By saying that something is OKish, along with the corresponding shoulder-shrugging movement and chirpy, cheeky smile possessed nowadays by any self-respected shop assistant, she/he will have made a powerful disclaimer. Should the 'something' (item of clothing, personal stereo, bike helmet) be faulty, they could lawfully claim to having advised the customer correctly in that their choice was not totally up to scratch, just OKish. Flip the coin to the other side and you'll have a happy client marching out the shop satisfied with their ishiness.
In the end, ish is here to stay. It's part of the cappuchino culture apparently inherited from the US and mainland Europe. It indicates coolness and urban chic. And I, for one, will continue to join the masses who display their ishiness loud and proud. Or should that be loudish and proudish?