The Oxford English Dictionary Adds New Words

The Oxford English Dictionary, long considered the official dictionary of the English language — mostly because that's what they tell everyone — adds new words to their lexicon four times a year. They also update entries and add new senses (definitions) to existing words.

This month, the OED added more than 650 new words, subentries, and senses, bringing the total to more than 600,000. However, some people are upset over some of the new words.

For one thing, many of the words are very family-unfriendly, like shits and giggles, cock, and dick-sucker.

(I didn't spell out those words in the newspaper version of this column, but invited people to see them here. If you're one of those people, welcome and thank you for stopping by, you naughty person!)

According to the Metro UK newspaper, people complained about the new words on social media, saying the OED had included "terrible slang." Another griped that, "if you can't maintain the level of education in this country, you might as well lower the standards."

This has always been the educational approach for most countries, but the blame does not lie with the dictionary, it lies with the schools.

That's because the OED is a descriptive dictionary, which means it only describes how words are used. That's different from a prescriptive dictionary, which tells you how words should be used.

Think of it like this: The tattletale who told the teacher about the naughty word you used? That's descriptive. But the grammar shamer who wags their finger and "tut-tuts" about a word you shouldn't say? That's prescriptive.

So don't expect the OED to "angustiate" our language, which is one of the new words, meaning to limit, confine, or restrict.

As in, "The OED will not "angustiate" language, and will stick in any old thing that people say, no matter how wrongheaded or stupid it is."

Like "fake news."

"Fake news" was added, despite the fact that it was created, and is largely used, by people who don't like it when the real media contradicts and corrects their crackbrained worldview. It's also used by people who are intellectually lazy and can't be bothered to read an actual newspaper to properly educate themselves about world events.

What's truly ironic is that "fake news" whiners will never know their word made it into one of the smartest books in the world, because the story appeared in an actual newspaper.

For all the 20-somethings who struggle with "adulting," the OED added "angsting," a noun that means the experience of feeling anxiety.

"I felt a lot of angsting when my boss said we had to be at work for the whole day."

Those people need to "chillax," which I'm actually surprised was not in the OED already. The word has been out of fashion for so long that parents and grandparents are saying it, which is probably why the OED finally recognized it.

Speaking of the originator of "fake news," "omnishambles" is another new addition. It's a noun or adjective that's used mostly in political contexts. It's a person who is prone to making blunders and miscalculations, or it's a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged.

This is the more polite version of a word that rhymes with "clustertruck," which made it into the OED in September 2004.

While we're on the subject of political omnishambles, "arlarse" is another new OED word. It's both a noun and an adjective that means "an unpleasant or annoying person; esp. one who is mean-minded, unkind, or unfair."

As in "I have a lot of arlarses in my Facebook feed who need to chillax and quit whining about fake news."

Of course, no one can accuse the OED of being too trendy or trying to be hip, because they also added "chirpse" to their ranks.

That's a verb that means "to flirt or make sexual advances toward." However, the OED are a few years behind other dictionaries like Macmillan, Collin, and the slang dictionary that moms everywhere rely on, Urban Dictionary, which means no one has used "chirpse" since 1997.

I always enjoy seeing the OED's new word additions, because I love language. Not just for what we can do with it or the stories we can tell with it.

I love language for its rich history, its ever-changing nature, and because a single word — the right word — can make readers vibrate with emotions and memories.

And I love the sounds that certain words make. Some words are just fun to say and hear, like "kerfuffle," "befuddled," or "dottle."

Which is why my favorite new word in the OED is "blert," which refers to "a useless, weak, or cowardly person."

It's one of those hidden gems in a mountain of language. It's fun to say, the sound fits the meaning, and it magically conjures up an image of the kind of person who fits that word.

Plus, it sounds like "fart."

Photo credit: Philafrenzy (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

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