Inside the OED: can the world’s biggest dictionary survive the internet?

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“At one level, few things are simpler than a dictionary: a list of the words people use or have used, with an explanation of what those words mean, or have meant. At the level that matters, though – the level that lexicographers fret and obsess about – few things could be more complex. Who used those words, where and when? How do you know? Which words do you include, and on what basis? How do you tease apart this sense from that? And what is “English” anyway?

In the case of a dictionary such as the OED – which claims to provide a “definitive” record of every single word in the language from 1000AD to the present day – the question is even larger: can a living language be comprehensively mapped, surveyed and described? Speaking to lexicographers makes one wary of using the word “literally”, but a definitive dictionary is, literally, impossible. No sooner have you reached the summit of the mountain than it has expanded another hundred feet. Then you realise it’s not even one mountain, but an interlocking series of ranges marching across the Earth. (In the age of “global English”, the metaphor seems apt.)”

Full Story: Andrew Dickson for “The Long Read” over at The Guardian

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Word of the year – complicit

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NEW YORK (AP) — Russian election influence, the ever-widening sexual harassment scandal, mass shootings and the opioid epidemic helped elevate the word “complicit” as Dictionary.com’s word of the year for 2017.

Look-ups of the word increased nearly 300 percent over last year as “complicit” hit just about every hot button from politics to natural disasters, lexicographer Jane Solomon told The Associated Press ahead of Monday’s formal announcement of the site’s pick.

“This year a conversation that keeps on surfacing is what exactly it means to be complicit,” she said. “Complicit has sprung up in conversations about those who speak out against powerful figures in institutions, and those who stay silent.”

The first of three major spikes for the word struck March 12. That was the day after “Saturday Night Live” aired a sketch starring Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump in a glittery gold dress peddling a fragrance called “Complicit” because: “She’s beautiful, she’s powerful, she’s complicit.”

The bump was followed by another April 5, also related to Ivanka, Solomon said. It was the day after she appeared on “CBS This Morning” and told Gayle King, among other things: “I don’t know what it means to be complicit.”


Read more at AP.com and see what other words resonated in 2017.

Anthony Burgess’s lost dictionary of slang discovered

“The writer Anthony Burgess invented futuristic slang for his cult novel A Clockwork Orange and was so fascinated by the language of the street that he began work on a dictionary more than 50 years ago. Now his lost dictionary of slang, abandoned after several hundred entries covering three letters, has been discovered.

The work had been hidden in a vast archive of his papers and possessions held by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, an educational charity in Manchester, where he was born a century ago.

Anna Edwards, the foundation’s archivist, told the Guardian: “We’re thrilled to be making such exciting and important discoveries as we’re cataloguing the collection.

(…)

What survives are 6×4 slips of paper on which each entry is typed. There are 153, 700 and 33 slips for the letters A, B and Z respectively.”

Read on at The Guardian

Entries in A from Anthony Burgess’s lost dictionary of slang

Abdabs (the screaming) – Fit of nerves, attack of delirium tremens, or other uncontrollable emotional crisis. Perhaps imitative of spasm of the jaw, with short, sharp screams.

Abdicate – In poker, to withdraw from the game, forfeiting all money or chips put in the pot.

Abfab – Obsolescent abbreviation of absolutely fabulous, used by Australian teenagers or ‘bodgies’.

Abortion – Anything ugly, ill-shapen, or generally detestable: ‘You look a right bloody abortion, dressed like that’; ‘a nasty little abortion of a film’ (Australian in origin).

Abyssinia – I’ll be seeing you. A valediction that started during the Italo-Abyssinian war. Obsolete, but so Joyceanly satisfying that it is sometimes hard to resist.

Accidental(ly) on purpose – Deliberately, but with the appearance of accident: ‘So I put me hand on her knee, see, sort of accidental on purpose.’ (Literary locus classicus: Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine, 1923.)

Arse – I need not define. The taboo is gradually being broken so that plays on the stage and on radio and television introduce the term with no protest. The American Random House Dictionary … is still shy of it, however, though not of the American colloquialism ass. Arse is a noble word; ass is a vulgarism.

Word of the Year: Behind the Scenes

How did the Merriam-Webster Dictionary choose surreal as their Word of the Year for 2016? Peter Sokolowski explains the data behind their decisions, and what that tells us about what people were thinking this year.

Surreal is Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year because it was looked up significantly more frequently by users in 2016 than it was in previous years, and because there were multiple occasions on which this word was the one clearly driving people to their dictionary.
Read more over here on Merriam-Webster’s most excellent blog.

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The Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016 is post-truth – an adjective defined as ‘relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief’. Their blog is really worthwhile checking out as well.

Oxford Dictionaries presents the Word of the Year for 2016, as well as the shortlisted words adulting, alt-right, Brexiteer, chatbot, coulrophobia, glass cliff, hygge, Latinx, and woke. Script provided by guest writer and cultural commentator Neil Midgley.

The Sideways dictionary

The Sideways dictionary is like a dictionary, but using analogies instead of definitions. Use it as a tool for finding and sharing helpful analogies to explain technology. Because if everyone understands technology better, we can make technology work better for everyone.

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Video: How to write an analogy: Simplifying complicated technology concepts with Sideways Dictionary

Sideways Dictionary is a collection of witty analogies that help explain complex technology terms. Different analogies can be perfect to different people, so you can add your own—the quirkier and more personal, the better—and vote for the ones you find most helpful.

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Sideways Dictionary is a project by The Washington Post and Jigsaw

From mic drops to manspreading: an Oxford Dictionaries update

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Let’s pick that mic up again and check out some of the words that have been added toOxfordDictionaries.com in the world of informal language. The mic drop in question can be a literal ‘instance of deliberately dropping or tossing aside one’s microphone at the end of a performance or speech one considers to have been particularly impressive’, but it’s more likely to be figurative – or an exclamation to emphasize a particularly impressive point: Nuff said. Mic drop.

Read on…

Wordnik – Let’s Add a Million Missing Words to the Dictionary

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In this fun, short talk from TEDYouth, lexicographer Erin McKean encourages — nay, cheerleads — her audience to create new words when the existing ones won’t quite do. She lists out 6 ways to make new words in English, from compounding to “verbing,” in order to make language better at expressing what we mean, and to create more ways for us to understand one another.

Erin McKean has also started a Kickstarter for Wordnik: “The reason so few words are added to traditional dictionaries is because writing definitions takes a long time. A very talented editor may write seven entries in a day, or she may need weeks to describe just one word. Dictionary definitions are very difficult to write.

Wordnik takes a different approach. Instead of writing traditional definitions, we search for casual definitions that have already been created. You see these casual definitions all the time in good writing!”

More at Wordnik.com.