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Words on the radar: June 2012

Oxford Dictionaries adds dozens of new words each quarter  but we have a much longer watchlist of words that we are monitoring for possible inclusion in the future. The following are some words which have recently come to our attention, but don’t yet have enough currency for us to include them in our dictionaries. Some might fade away leaving barely a trace, but if any of these continue to spread among English speakers, you may see entries for them here in the months and years to come.

squoob: Apparently introduced by the Sun newspaper in January of this year, squoob (from squeezed and boob) refers to the prominent cleavage which protrudes from a tightly-fitting, low-cut bodice. This style is thought to be inspired in part by the Edwardian-era costumes of the television programme Downton Abbey. Whether the word endures will likely depend on the tenaciousness of the fashion trend, which was observed on many red carpets during the winter awards season.

geri-ed: Short for “geriatric emergency department” geri-ed is used for a hospital emergency unit catering to the needs of the elderly. As of yet, there are relatively few of these, but as the populations of English-speaking countries age, we may see more geri-eds—both the word and its referent—in the future.

selfie: This colloquial term for a photographic self-portrait has thus far appeared primarily in social media contexts. In fact, we see more evidence for it on the Oxford Twitter Corpus than in the much larger Oxford English Corpus or the Nexis database. However, selfie attracted mainstream notice when it appeared in US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s response to a humorous Tumblr dedicated to an image of her texting. Many commentators doubted that she had penned the riposte herself, saying such a Facebook-generation word was unlikely to be in her vocabulary.

Bradreeism: This new British political term, referring to a form of clan-based political nepotism, weds bradree, an Anglicization of the Urdu word birādrī (‘brotherhood, kinsfolk’), with the English suffix -ism. It arose in commentary on the unexpected outcome of the recent Bradford West by-elections, in which voter frustration with the influence of traditional clan politics was said to play a role in the surprise victory of Respect Party candidate George Galloway.

Phablet: Those of us who watch new words have long observed that one of the most popular types of neologism is the blend (also known as a portmanteau word), a combination of two words in which (unlike a compound) part of one or both words is omitted. Phablet, a blend of ‘phone’ and ‘tablet’, describes a touchscreen device which is larger than a standard mobile phone but can be used to make telephone calls—making it a functional as well as etymological blend of phone and tablet. This word first cropped up in 2010, but didn’t really begin to catch on until late 2011, when these devices became a significant enough factor in the gadget market to warrant our having a word for them.

Have you noticed any new words lately? Use the comments to share them, and you may see them in our next new words roundup.