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Trout pout, misery memoir, and Nollywood: ODO quarterly update August 2011

Every quarter, we update the current English dictionary in Oxford Dictionaries Online with new words and meanings that have made it into common usage. For this update, we’ve added dozens of words, from aha moment to yuck factor. You might do a fist pump (on your own) or a more subtle fist bump (with someone else) when you hear that we’ve also added geekery and geekspeak to ODO – or, if you want to show your appreciation in a more restrained fashion, there’s always the golf clap.

But these words aren’t brand new …

The words we add to our dictionaries aren’t always newly coined. This is because a word has to gain a certain currency before we include it in our dictionaries: this handy infographic tells you more about the vetting process. New words are constantly being invented to describe new concepts, and not all of them stick around long enough to merit inclusion in a current English dictionary – who remembers ‘twobicle’ and ‘yettie’?

In addition to the quarterly updates of our current English dictionaries, we also add new words and meanings to the online Oxford English Dictionary (OED) – our comprehensive historical dictionary, which spans over 20 volumes in print. The OED charts the first recorded use of a word and details its development over time. In our March OED update, for example, we included ‘OMG’, and revealed that this initialism was first recorded in 1917! There is some overlap in the new words and meanings we include in our historical and current English dictionaries, but some words will appear in our current English dictionaries long before they are included in the OED. However, the underlying principle is the same – before a word goes in, we have to have evidence of its usage. For the OED, this will be independent published examples over a period of 10 years. For current English dictionaries (like the one on this site), the time period may be less stringent, but the need for independent examples is just the same.

Why do you include ‘undignified’ words such as kewl and trout pout in Oxford dictionaries?

The answer to this is quite simple: so that users of our dictionaries can find out from an authoritative source what these expressions mean.

Our lexicographers don’t make judgements about whether words are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – they impartially take note when they are first used, and do meticulous research into how they are used, in order to write accurate definitions once the words have gained sufficient currency. If we stopped defining new words and including new meanings at an arbitrary cut-off point – say, after the death of Shakespeare (who was a great linguistic innovator himself, incidentally) – our dictionaries would quickly become unusable in today’s world.

If we only chose words that we felt were ‘dignified’ enough for an Oxford dictionary, who would be the arbiter of such a choice? And what would be the criteria? Deciding we don’t want to include manscaping might be an easy enough call, but what if one of our lexicographers developed a personal grudge against all computing terms, and started slashing thousands of useful words such as click fraud or bookmarklet? If you’re a digital immigrant rather than a digital native, there’s even more reason for you to be grateful that our lexicographers are keeping a faithful record of the English language – warts and all.

This quarter’s additions: from gado gado to goldendoodle

Whether you are indulging in a caprese, grilled meat with chimichurri, or gado gado, you’ll be pleased to hear that all of these food words have made it into this update. You can wash these delicious dishes down with a long black – unless a fat tax is introduced on any of these, which might make becoming a junketeer a more attractive option… Or if instead you want to become a social entrepreneur and solve problems such as water poverty, make sure you don’t make any fat finger mistakes when you are doing your e-banking, or you will find yourself doing a facepalm.

Oh, and we’ve also added goldendoodle – but that was mainly so we could use a cute picture of one to illustrate this post…