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Oxford Dictionary's "New Words of September 2016" list

One of the most beautiful things about language is how it constantly changes. When you woke up this morning, your language was different to when you went to sleep.

Every month, Oxford English Dictionary releases a list of about 500 new entries to its dictionary. The list for September 2016 is a very interesting snapshot of English-speaking culture. Here it is:

A few thoughts:

- As usual, English is voraciously devouring other languages' words. A new word for Sep 2016: atas, a Singaporean English loanword from Malay, meaning sophisticated, classy, snobbish.

- I love how English is getting increasingly creative at inventing portmanteau words (combinations of two half-words to make a new word, eg. smoke + fog = smog). New in the list are "clicktivism" and "slacktivism" (promoting social causes by lazily posting links on your Facebook). Hacktivism has been in the OED for much longer. Bromance and bootylicious (a word that came up in another thread here recently) are other examples of modern portmanteau words. Can you come up with any more?

- As usual, the most thriving place in a language is the gutter: some of the most colourful new English words are vulgarites (my favourite is "bitch face", the facial expression that just looks mad at life, even if the person might not actually feel this way. I predict "resting bitch face" will come later: that's when a person's natural, emotionless expression looks like a bitch face. Resting bitch face already has its own wikipedia page, and the term appears regularly in serious academic journals on psychology.)

- The new "business words" are mostly quite boring, but bricks and clicks sounds lovely!

- When does a collocation become a compound noun? For me "police officer" is unquestionably a compound, but "kindergarten student" just sounds like a combination of two words. How did OED decide it's now a compound?

- Amazing how very common old words take on new meanings. Example: kick. As of this month, "kick" can officially mean "to test, check, or research the condition or quality of a product, service, etc., before purchase or use".

I also found an old meaning of "kick" in the OED that's unrecognisable today (at least to me): "to implore". Example (written in 1858): "Ned Purchase suggested that they might as well try and kick him for some coppers."

Any other comments?

Sep 19, 2016 10:39 PM
Comments · 5

@Sudeep: It's funny - if you look at any language, one of the big drivers of change is the internet. Just 20 years ago "web logs" was a very new word, now that word's mostly gone extinct. It was replaced by "blog", which was quickly converted into a verb. And from "blog" we got a whole new word family: blogger, blogosphere, even "bloggorrhea" (a portmanteau of "blog" and "diarrhea", for when you blog way too much).

@EnglishGeek: If borrowings are "language pollution", then English is 80% pollution! When you look up the origin of a word in the dictionary, finding an indigenous Old English word is the exception, not the rule.

It's the reason why French is so much easier to learn for English-speakers than German - even though English and German both share the same Germanic roots, our vocabulary is much closer to French (mostly due to the Norman invasion of England in 1066).

To me, foreign words make English richer. Where would we be without "schadenfreude" and "je ne sais quoi"? I don't mind these words entering English at all, the more vocabulary I can use the better!

But I don't discount the concern altogether, of course. A lot of indigenous languages are facing becoming totally anglicised after being nearly extinct for centuries. It's hard to suddenly invent good Gaelic- or Maori-derived words for "blog", etc. when few people have spoken your language natively since the 19th century.

How has Hebrew dealt with that? It only relatively recently became a language for everyday speech, right?

@Andrew: A lot of the new entries are unfamiliar to me too, including the new definition of "kick". Which just goes to show, you can never totally trust yourself as an authority on your own language, right? Sometimes I've seen corrections, etc. from other native speakers on italki that looked totally wrong from my perspective, but when I googled them it turned out their use was quite standard.

September 20, 2016

Thanks@Alen for sharing this useful information:)I started a discussion on the same words topic named"I wonder why more and more words are being included in Oxford English Dictionary" and got some nice comment and you also gave a very satisfactory answer to that.

The nature of language is dynamic  and including more new words from different geographic locations can help people to fell  cool!!and make the language fresh:)

BTW,there are some nice words and some weird. In the article, it was written that more than 1000 new words had been included.

New variety of word like YOLO(you only live once)has made it easier to express something in one word.

In the next year word prediction list "Pockemoning" is going to be included and it's due to the craziness among people for the Pokemon game:)

September 20, 2016
Equally, it seems utterly absurd that they have, apparently, only just added 'clarion call.'
September 20, 2016

Some additions are bizarre - for example 'kick,' in isolation meaning to test. 'To kick the tyres,' certainly, but I have never heard kick so used.

On the other hand, the dictionary often seems to be very tardy in introducing words that have been around for a long time. For example, I can scarcely believe that they have, only now, got around to introducing the verb 'to cheerlead.'

September 20, 2016
Hello, Alan! An interesting topic. I personally am not that exited about using foreign words. To me it's a language pollution. But this is just my take on this. 
September 20, 2016
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