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Social Networking Influence on Spoken Language

Oxford English Dictionary New “Words”

It’s finally here. What we’ve all been waiting to see for months – the Oxford English Dictionary’s (OED) New Words for 2010. The result is a lexicological nightmare. Chaucer and Shakespeare must be turning in their graves. Here is a sampling of new words:

  • Staycation – a money-saving holiday at home
  • Freemiums – free service providers with paid-for premium extra
  • Bossnapping – to oppose sacking or pay cuts
  • Frenemy -- a person with whom one is friendly despite a fundamental dislike
  • Cheeseball -- someone or something lacking taste, style or originality and
  • Bromance -- a close but nonsexual relationship between two men.

Of course, the Internet continues to influence choice of new words. For example, there is ‘Unfriend’ coming from the practice of dropping a contact from a Facebook site. ‘Tweetup’ refers to organizing gatherings through Twitter. ‘Jeggings’ comes from the traditional word-marrying of mixing jeans and leggings to describe new clothing style. ‘Snollygosters’ means a shrewd, unprincipled person.

Then there are the initialisms like OMG, LOL, TMI, FYI and BFF that are commonly used on social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and in GChat, but was unacceptable for standard dictionaries; they have newly been included in the online edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED describes OMG as “Oh my God” or “Oh my goodness”, LOL as “laughing out loud”, TMI as “too much information”, FYI as “for your information” and BFF as “best friends forever”.

Some non-techie words, including couch surfing, muffin top, la-la land, rub-a-dub, taquito, and wassup also made the cut. I live in la-la land so it has been in my personal dictionary for years. I also love to watch old Seinfeld segments and can recall one where Elaine came up with the idea of just selling muffin tops without the rest of the muffin because that was the part people enjoyed the most. I wonder whether Elaine will receive any royalties?

Other colorful slang and colloquial terms entering the dictionary include cream-crackered adj. (rhyming slang for ‘knackered’, that is exhuasted); smack talk n. (boastful or insulting banter); fnarr fnarr int. and adj (a representation of a lecherous snigger popularized in the comic magazine Viz and used adjectivally to denote crude sexual innuendo); pap n. 5 and v.3, shortenings of paparazzo; dot-bomb n. (a failed internet company); and couch surfing n.  (the practice of spending the night on other people’s couches in lieu of permanent housing).

Boy is my spelling and grammar checking program OOS (“out of style”). The OED is updated four times a year, every March, June, September, and December. I can’t wait for the June 2011 edition. Until then, enjoy this video of a cat’s descriptive rendition of the OED and the importance of the Internet to sharing a cat's perspective on life.


Blog by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, April 15, 2011

Video from YouTube