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Oct 11

Change is Good

 

Words like computeresque (adj), ecomuseum (n), and ringback (n) weren’t around before I was born. Actually they were accepted into the English dictionary as new entries only as far back as 5 years ago, in 2008.  They may have been used before then, but they are now three of the numerous new official entries added by the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The OED releases revisions 4 times per year. That’s how fast our language is changing! These include not only new words, but new meanings of existing words. Here you can see the lists of words and explanations behind some of them. From the menu on the left you can search through updates from different months/years.

Phone hacking, believe it or not, has been around for decades already. But it hasn’t always been used to describe the act of “gaining unauthorized access to a person’s phone or data” as we use it today.  According to the OED, in the 1980s and 1990s phone hacking was used as a synonym for another term: phreaking. This meant “the practice of using an electronic device to make long-distance phone calls without paying, or at a reduced rate”. How times have changed. I wouldn’t be surprised if kids now don’t know that long distance calls cost more than local ones.

I feel that most new words that have made it into our lexicon are technology based.  So many rapid changes in that field have happened over the past few years. I remember when I was little, being asked to stop playing games on the computer because my mom was expecting a phone call! Remember a childhood where text was a noun meaning words printed on a page, not a verb meaning to send a message? And when tweet was something only birds did? I do miss that sometimes, but I love that language is constantly evolving. Life would be quite boring if we weren’t creative enough to make new words.

 

So what are your opinions about language evolution? What’s your favorite new word? Feel free to comment! I promise I read them!

 

Calvin has the right idea. Some words even change their part of speech and take on new meaning. For example, Google is not only the name of a search engine (noun use), someone can Google something (verb use).

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  3. Jason Tougaw

    I think “emoji” maybe one of my favorite new words in English. My least favorite new words seem to be generated by bureaucracy: “webinar,” “value-added,” “upskill.”

    Do you know of any interesting books about the evolution of English vocabulary? I’m curious.

    1. Angela Polloni

      Yes, “emoji” is a great one, Jason!

      Based on my reading the preview of this book, I would recommend “English Words: Structure, History, Usage” by Francis Katamba: http://www.amazon.com/English-Words-Structure-History-Usage/dp/0415298938/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381887938&sr=1-7&keywords=the+evolution+of+english+lexicon#_
      A warning though that this book was published back in 2005, so any newer additions to the language such as the technological words I spoke of will not be included. Chapters 7 and 8 provide discussion of the sources of many English words and of language change.

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