Why The New Oxford Online Dictionary Terms Perfectly Reflect Our Culture
Oxford Online Dictionary has updated its contents to reflect trends in online speech. These new members of the Oxford club include adorbs, binge-watch, cray, humblebrag, listicle, neckbeard, SMH, side boob, vape and YOLO.
If you live in a larger metropolitan area, be prepared for dozens of literature professors, uppity librarians and other snooty English language users to flood your streets, clad with apocalyptic signs proclaiming that the “End is Nigh.”
These English Elitists will claim that this latest addition to their beloved Oxford dictionary is the final nail in the coffin of the language.
What was once the property of Jefferson, Thoreau and Twain now belongs to the swagbois and girlz of the world. They will weep, hold funerals and read excerpts from classics as eulogies to mourn the loss of this once great language.
The only problem with these English dooms-dayers is that they come out every time even the slightest change is made to the language.
They were up in arms when “thou” could be replaced by “you.” They protested when we decided “shall” was a bit too over-the-top and “will” would be a fine alternative. They howled when “hath,” cometh” and “doth,” were discarded in favor of “has,” “come” and “do.”
Languages, just like the cultures that speak them, evolve. As time progressed, many English language flourishes fell away and concise points took a higher priority.
Even a book that’s not even 100 years old like “The Great Gatsby” is a bit of a slog for the modern reader, as F. Scott Fitzgerald seemed to dawdle before getting to the point. But, in 1925, his prose was perfectly clear.
Contractions of words like “YOLO” are merely a sign of the times. People want to communicate full thoughts as quickly and efficiently as possible. Although most usages of “YOLO” are insufferable, it is undeniable that the word is clear, concise and effectively communicates a message.
Similarly, “humblebrag” fills a void in the English Language. Before, how else would you properly describe the eye-roll-inducing comment made by your local showoff, who complains about bringing the wrong swimsuit to Leonardo Dicaprio’s private pool party?
Without this invention, we’d be struggling to define why this person is so aggravating. Now, Oxford does a wonderful job by defining “humblebrag” to be,
An ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud
What an infuriating thing to do! Thanks, Oxford.
New words also need to be added to keep up with a changing culture. Kanye West now finds himself among the company of word creators like Bill Shakespeare, as his take on the word “crazy,” “cray,” has entered the official catalog of English usage.
Kanye and Jay-Z’s massive hit “N*ggas in Paris” is so prevalent that a definition is needed to assist those so square that they don’t understand context clues.
“Binge-watch” was but a pipe dream before the blessing of Netflix. This new technology allows humans to routinely absorb entire seasons of television shows. Before Netflix and other such services, to “binge-watch” was not even possible.
Now? How else could you describe your plans for “The Wire” when you finally get some free time?
Dictionaries are not exclusive clubs where only the finest words are admitted. They are guides for people who want to understand what the heck they just read. Their purpose is not to knight words into the highest realms of the English language, but to define every word so that every person is only a couple of clicks away from being up-to-date with the latest lingo.
So, fear not; the English language is not dying, moribund or expiring — it is growing.
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