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!)
Don’t know what FOMO stands for? Yeah, me either. (Psst… old folks! It means, “Fear of Missing Out.”) Good thing it is one of the sixty-five new entries in the venerable Oxford English Dictionary. As you will see, many of them are from the virtual world. Among my favorites, which originated on Reddit, is TL;DR (Too long; did not read.) Some of this year’s entries have met with howls of outrage among the literati, but we would all do well to remember the wise counsel of Jorge Luis Borges who said that “language is not, as we are led to suppose by the dictionary, the invention of academicians or philologists. Rather, it has been evolved through time…by peasants, by fishermen, by hunters, by riders.” Say that over and over to yourself when you understand that “twerk” is now an officially recognized word:
[no object] informal
Here are a few of those new entries. Do you know your emoji from your omnishambles? WELL, DO YOU?
“Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.” ~ Noam Chomsky
Two new words were added to the “monster accordion” of the English language today:
Omnishambles (noun, informal): a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.
GIF (verb) : to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event.
(An important note: I learned today that I mispronounce “GIF”. I say it as if there is a silent “t”… “gif”… and it’s like the peanut butter, Jiff. I plan to continue to say it my way. What are ya gonna do, call a cop?)
Omnishambles owes its origins to the British political satire The Thick of It. Here are other words that have become part of our parlance, whose origins also come from television:
From The Simpsons:
“D’oh!” (in the OED)
Embiggen Dictionary.com‘s 21st Century Lexicon
Stephen Colbert: “Truthiness”
Conan O’Brien: “Crunk”
As for technology, imagine going back even fifteen years, perhaps less, and telling someone that you needed to tweet something you found on youtube and hey, by the way, did you hear flashdrives are on sale at Amazon? See you later. I need to go to iTunes and download that new MP3.