Must. Remind. Self.. The OED is not an arbiter of, but a chronicler of, English language use.
Every year, the Powers-That-Be lean over the windowsills located high atop their Ivory Towers and cock an ear towards the milling crowds below. When they hear a word they do not recognize being shouted often enough, they dip their quills into wells of octopus ink and inscribe that word on gold-rimmed parchment.
Okay, not really. Actually, it’s only been since 2004 that Oxford has selected a word of the year at all. Judy Pearsall, editorial director at Oxford, explains that a language usage program “collects around 150m words of current English in use each month.” The word in 2013 that has become the most frequent was “selfie.” According to The Guardian,
The word can be traced back to a post on an Australian online forum in 2002: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”
So now we can blame Australia for both Crocodile Dundee and the word “selfie”! (Just kidding, mates!)
The world lost two influential literary voices this week. Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing, best known for her novel The Golden Notebook, passed away Sunday at age 94. And Barbara Park, author of the beloved children’s books featuring her irascible character Junie B. Jones, died Friday after a long battle with ovarian cancer. Park was 66.
While it may not seem that these two very different authors have a lot in common, what Park and Lessing shared was a love of vocal women as well as sense of appreciation for life and its transient nature. Park captured what few writers for children manage to do successfully: the energy and curiosity of a girl with a questioning mind. For her part, Lessing was always adjusting the lens. As we get older, the clarity of a Junie B. Jones is harder to maintain, but Lessing asks us to remember, and to seek the authentic in an often exhausting world.
I wonder what Junie B. and Lessing might have to say to each other:
True Story: I remember getting my library card more vividly than I recall getting my driver’s license. My best memories of childhood were going to the library with my mom and checking out armfuls of books, which she would read to me for hours on end. At two, I am told, I would stand on tiptoe at the librarian’s desk and request favorites or authors (I didn’t know why the lady laughed at me. I guess most toddlers weren’t as particular.) I would rather go to the library than the movies, or the park, or anywhere else. Still true. The libraries I recall were nothing fancy. Maybe some bulletin boards heralding an upcoming holiday or new books perched half-open, standing on top of shelves. Of course in 197…(cough, cough), there were not nearly as many ways for a child to be entertained. The television had four channels (as God intended): ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. Cartoons were from 7am to 10am, period. No LOL cats, no Youtube…. I like to scare my son with these tidbits. Today, libraries are competing to keep your child reading and finding some interesting ways to do so, by engaging the imagination. Here are a few of my favorite new spaces, and some words from others who continue to love libraries: