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I'd Like a Word With You

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Publication of a new edition of The Chambers Dictionary, Britain's "bible" for word worshippers, has caused a stir among linguistic conservatives and traditionalists. The latest version of the famed reference work now includes numerous new words reflecting current British trends, technology and culture. Words such as "jeggings" (a hybrid of jeans and leggings) and "skank" (a derogatory term for a loose woman). Should Shakespeare be turning over in his grave or "tweeting" in delight?

Not surprisingly, the Internet provides one of the largest sources of new words. Among new terms now officially recognized are "crowd-sourcing" (which refers to using the web to mobilize a large group of people); as well as "paywall," "tweet," and Facebook-related expressions "defriend" and "unfriend." Other new words reflect the troubled world economy such as "toxic assets," "double dip," "overleaveraged" and "staycation." Texting abbreviations "OMG" (Oh my God) and "BFF" (Best friends forever) have also made the new edition. And then there are miscellaneous new words such as "globesity" (referring to a worldwide epidemic of weight gain) and "locavore" (someone who only eats local produce).

Actually, Shakespeare might have liked having more material to work with. "Unfriends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears." "What is sharper than a serpent's text?" "All the Web's a stage." "To BFF or not to BFF, that is the question."

David Swarbrick, managing director at Chambers, believes that the new set of words provides a portrait of Britain over the last few years. He has been quoted as saying, "[E]very new generation needs to see the impact that they have made in society. Different generations make different impacts. I think young people are probably the most creative agents for new words because they're not held back by convention."

A good example of a creative new word used by young people is "sexting" (exchanging text messages of a sexual nature). But the word was deemed too new for inclusion in the latest edition of The Chambers Dictionary. Here are a few more words that were omitted.

  • Clairvoyantique -- yesterday's vision of the future
  • Cybereavement -- mourning a computer that died before back-up
  • Elevatorture -- listening to someone's elevator pitch
  • Fiscalamity -- announcement of poor annual results
  • Guruins -- remains of company after visionary CEO takes golden parachute
  • Migrateful -- happy for lateral career move that gets you away from your boss
  • Mindsharecropper -- someone who horns in on your ideas and farms the best of them
  • Priceberg -- hidden cost of paying more than you can afford
  • Pushwhacked -- failed to see pushback coming
  • Robusted -- product with so many features that customers hate it
  • Sofacillitate -- ease a person out of their job and into their living room
  • Telepathetic -- believing that you can read your boss' mind
  • Yenabler -- any country that keeps lending to Japan
  • Zenvision -- sound of one strategic plan slapping itself

How should we feel about the omission of these words from The Chambers Dictionary while terms such as "skank" and "OMG" were included? Well, linguistic traditionalists will find it both good and bad news. Or as Charles Dickens might have observed, "It was the best of times. It was the WTF of times."

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