Culture

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New year, new words— London

Preface

The Oxford English Dictionary is updated with new words four times a year and the latest bunch was just announced in December.

Language

2 January 2012

The Oxford English Dictionary is updated with new words four times a year and the latest bunch was just announced in December. Chronicling the contents of 1000 years of the English language is a difficult task. I love finding out what the latest entries are – it’s like a verbal marker of what our current generation has to add to the ever-growing family tree of words. Thrilling.

The latest batch of additions has some fascinating and beautiful words, most of which I’ve never seen before and am not likely to use. For example, abetalipoproteinaemia – which is a rare syndrome that affects one’s absorption of fat from food. It speaks to me of scientific breakthrough instead of growing trends of hypochondria.

Absquatulize – a lovely word to say – means to leave suddenly without warning. Does this mean we’re all becoming a bit more flakey? I’ve been known to slink off from a party in the past, so I may excuse myself in future by saying, “I’m about to absquatulize – see you soon.” Then leave abruptly before friends have time to quiz me.

Accordian is familiar as a noun of course but it makes its debut in the OED as a verb. “I’m going to accordian you.” That sounds rather aggressive, I wonder if its inclusion comes hot on the heels of the many riots that swept through 2011.

And then towards the end we find va-jay-jay – a noun popularised by the people of Essex on several British reality TV shows, to describe a lady’s genitalia. I find it hard to imagine a group of esteemed Oxford English dons sitting in an archaic oak panelled room at Oxford University debating the merits of officially including or excluding va-jay-jay from the English language.

But the full list of new words makes for fun, educational and at times depressing reading. Does a scientific breakthrough or discovery of a new genome really merit the same verbal status as the word munter? It’s debatable whether adding these words means we’re really free to use them in any way we see fit.

Perhaps my love of the OED is a bit old-fashioned and out of date. But it still has vital relevance in everyday life. A quick survey of friends and family revealed, almost unanimously that the last time they’d consulted a hard copy dictionary was during a game of Scrabble. In which case va-jay-jay is a welcome addition – it’ll score you 27 points.

Monocle 24

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