How many times do you actually crack open a dictionary? I mean, actually opening up a book made of dead trees, flipping through the modern papyrus, and using your eyes to find a word? Probably not that often, as Microsoft Word spellcheck, Google autofill, and even iOS devices tell us what we want to say (autocorrect be damned). Me? I'm kinda partial. Two journalism degrees and a dozen books in, I've got like five dictionaries, at least one thesaurus, and a bunch of style books. I get that I'm sensitive about books with words.
So you can imagine my quill-and-scroll meltdown when I learned this week that Oxford is screwing up the official Oxford English Dictionary… again! Here's Engadget with the scoop:
…the latest class of inductees including words like "retweet," "sexting," and "cyberbullying." Also making the cut is "woot" (which is apparently spelled without zeroes) and "surveil," which was added primarily as a reflection of today's privacy-conscious society. In fact, the dictionary's purveyors say they make their decisions based not on intuition or cage match results, but on cultural ubiquity, which they gauge using a database of more than two billion words culled from contemporary sites.
FFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU! (which, hell, it might as well have added, too.) There are a cornucopia of maladies these goofballs are causing.
First, as Gizmodo mentioned, it is misspelling key words like w00t. It makes the century old dictionary sound like your mother telling you to "talk to the fist, er, hand!" or "raise the ceiling!" If you're going to go colloquial, you have to go all in.
Second, these terms have a shorter shelf life than Rebecca Black. I love Twitter, but three years ago Facebook was the de facto social network. Before that? MySpace. "Retweet" should not be in the damn dictionary. And I actually write about sex culture, but didn't even hear about the term "sexting" until a couple years ago – and it wasn't from teens, but from uptight soccer moms trying to label what they thought their kids were doing. And even if kids used the term, they'd invent another, better term by the time we caught on. Why? Because that's what kids do.
In fact, that's the real problem here: The Oxford English Dictionary has stooped to the levels of Urban Dictionary. What it should be providing is a solid, simple resource for English words we know aren't of the moment and will always be of the time.
Instead, OED is trying to get jiggy with the latest wiggity-wack terms. And, a few years from now, it will sound as dated as that last sentence.
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