31 Aug 2010


When does a word become a word? For the staff of the English Oxford Dictionary (OED) it is not a philosophical question, but a practical one.

A university researcher recently described his fascination at discovering vaults full of millions of 'non-words' that had failed to make the grade. They included 'wurfing', the act of surfing the Internet at work; 'polkadodge', the awkward dance performed by pedestrians trying to pass each other on the street; and 'nonversion'*, a pointless chat.

"What you have to remember,'" says OED's senior editor of new words "is that once a word has gone into he dictionary, it never comes out. So words have to pass a few basic tests before they can be deemed to have entered the language. They have to have been around a reasonable amount of time and be in common use." - Max Davidson, the Daily Telegraph. (Click HERE for full article.)

*Just as well this one didn't make it or I might have found myself being called 'nonversion' instead of Petty Witter.

And now for ....... some of the words that did make it.

Football fans will perhaps be unsurprised to learn that the VUVUZELA, has blared it's way into the OED as has:-

  • Carbon capture and storage - the process of trapping and storing carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels.
  • Geo-engineering - the manipulation of environmental processes to counteract the effects of global warming.
  • Cheeseball - Refers to someone or something lacking taste, style or originality.
- Sam Jones, the Guardian.

(To view the other words added click HERE)

But sad to say publishers of the OED have confirmed that the third edition may never appear in print. Nigel Portwood, chief executive of Oxford University Press said "The print dictionary market is just disappearing. It is falling away by tens of percent a year." Asked if he thought the third edition would appear in printed format, he said "I don't think so." - the Guardian.

Annoyed by TEXT-SPEAK? Well, It turns out that it's nothing new. No really! the British Library claims text-speak is sooo 19th century.

If you are annoyed by the vocabulary of the text generation, then a new exhibition at the British Library should calm you down. It turns out they were doing it in the 19th century - only then they called it emblematic poetry, and it was considered very clever.

Devoted to the English language and demonstrating how quickly language can change, the exhibition which opens this winter will explore 1,500 years of history from Anglo-Saxon runes and early dictionaries to not dropping your H's and rap. - Mark Brown, The Guardian. (READ MORE)

I dumbed down claims Ian Rankin, the Scottish author of the Rebus detective novels. The author said he sees himself as an entertainer rather than a wordsmith. "Writers like me are part of the entertainment industry," he said.
"We're not winning Nobel Prizes for books that are difficult to read or written in an ornate language." - Laura Roberts, the Daily Telegraph. (FULL ARTICLE)

And finally .......

Women who write intellectual books are seen as strange and unnatural.

Women who write smart, demanding novels are perceived by critics as strange and unnatural, "like a dog standing on it's hind legs" the novelist AS Byatt told the Edinburgh international book festival.

Byatt, who won the Booker prize in 1990 and was shortlisted for last year's award, said it was very hard for women to be accepted if they wrote intellectually challenging fiction.

The British novelist has (also) been vocal in her criticism of sexism in the literary world and hit out at the Orange prize which is limited to only women novelists. "The Orange prize is a sexist prize," she said. "You couldn't found a prize for male writers." - Charlotte Higgins and Caroline Davies, the Guardian. (Click HERE for full article)

Just one more thing (promise):

England's Durham University is to offer a Harry Potter course as part of its education degree.


Erratic Thoughts said...

Oh this was so very informative...thanks for those words and links.Tough job deciding words!
I seem to be wurfing a lot these days :D

Boonie S said...

What fascinating items. Thanks for this.

All the best, Boonie

Misha1989 said...

Thanks for sharing! It was quite a fascinating read.


R. Ramesh said...

omg to think the third OED edition may never appear in print...esp for a journalist like me, it is shocking...what future holds for the print media??!! will they go the way v used to write letters on post cards just a decade ago..!!so many questions..gr8 post buddy:)

Arti said...

A great post... Well, the vuvuzela had to make it after making news for all the wrong reasons!
Thanks for such an informative post:) have a nice day!

chitra said...

Your makes a lovely read. I learn lot of things

Melissa Gill said...

I'm determined to create new words from the "word verifications" that you have to enter to comment on blogs. Check out my blog on Fridays, abd let's see if we can get words like Mogis into regular English usage.


GMR said...

Oh where to begin on this post! (Loved it by the way..) Very interesting to learn about the non-words that didn't make the cut...so my evil plan to get the word fantabulous added may still work! (Just kidding...although...) The text speak exhibition sounds too funny. I don't mind mind it too much but when you get into the unknown ones, it's all Greek to me. KWIM? (know what I mean...hehe) On to the last topic, the Orange prize....yeah, critics and literary prizes can be viewed that way, but honestly as much as it means to the author and publishers...it's not going to make or not make me read a book. I readz what I likez...KWIM? ^_^

Jenners said...

Wow ... lots of good stuff in this post. I really like thinking about the words and when they make them into the dictionary. I think one test should be if a person over the age of 75 can use it correctly in a sentence!

Nina said...

Great post, very interesting and entertaining. :) Cheeseball? Really? I just thought it was a ball of cheese! lol.

Kate said...

This is so interesting!

Text speak does rather annoy me. Though, recently, a friend of mine had to use her mobile phone from about 4 years ago and some of the texts on the phone from then, when we were 15, are pretty much impossible to decipher. It's rather ridiculous!

I use English now! :p

Kate x

Clarissa Draper said...

Well, I'm not surprised those horns made it into the dictionary, as long as they shut up! It's sad that dictionary are no longer going to be printed. I love my Cambridge Brick-book that sits quietly by my side. I love the smell when I open the cover.


Gabrielle said...

This was a cool post!! I enjoyed it :)

<3 Gabrielle

quid said...

Great post. I must admit:


is one of the most fascinating words to come along in a long time. I think it possible for high score in scrabble (there are two "v's", correct?)


Kelly said...

Very interesting!

I must say I find the idea of the print dictionary going by the wayside a very sad thing. I'm one who still uses mine on a regular basis. My favorite dictionary is the "American Heritage" dictionary I received as a high school graduation gift MANY years ago!

brizmus said...

Vuvuzela - I love it!
What a fun post - I have to say, I am so glad that ALL of those words didn't make it into the dictionary!

Alison said...

Very interesting. I don't know if I agree with women writing intellectual books being seen as less. But if I think about it more, it's not that they're seen as freaks...rather the men just get more recognition, like Jonathan Franzen. And that's unfair too.
Alison Can Read

Trac~ said...

Wow - you never cease to amaze me my friend! :o)

Pam said...

I am always happy to know that my teen and her friends excel at something. I just didn't know it was the quite clever emblematic poetry until now.
I will share with them how special they are. :)

Jen said...

I have to admit that I rarely use my printed dictionaries. I usually look it up on the computer. It's sad to think of them not published any more, though.

awitchtrying said...

I LOVE the OED! I own a beautiful copy, not sure the edition but it's in two parts with four "pages" per page and came with two magnifying glasses. I heard recently on CBC radio that they're adding some questionable words. Chillax? and LBD for little black dress. This is crazy to me. Really, in 50 years, do we think people will still be saying chillax?

Betty Manousos @ CUT AND DRY said...

I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Great read! Thanks for sharing it, Tracy.

Big hugs,
B xx