Upstander, Turtle Island, and tink: an Oxford Dictionaries update
New words added to OxfordDictionaries.com come, as usual, from a wide variety of backgrounds and areas – from contemporary discussions of gender, to politics, to contemporary slang like CBA (‘can’t be arsed’) and douche canoe (‘an obnoxious or contemptible person’). Here are some of the most notable words entering the dictionary in this update…
The initialisms AFAB and AMAB have now been added to OxfordDictionaries.com. These stand for ‘assigned female at birth’ and ‘assigned male at birth’ respectively, and are used in contexts in which a person’s gender identity contrasts with the sex they were assigned at birth. For example, ‘this show portrayed both AMAB and AFAB non-binary folks’.
Relatedly, two terms from gender reassignment surgery have also been added in this update: bottom surgery and top surgery. The former refers to surgery performed on a person’s genitals as part of gender reassignment, while the latter is ‘surgery performed on the chest as part of gender reassignment, especially to remove breast tissue and produce a masculine appearance of the chest in female-to-male surgery’.
In July 2015, OxfordWords discussed the campaign for dictionary recognition of the word upstander: the campaign even went as far as a resolution being approved by the New Jersey State Senate. The suggested definition was not dissimilar to the definition now included in OxfordDictionaries.com: ‘a person who speaks or acts in support of an individual or cause, particularly someone who intervenes on behalf of a person being attacked or bullied’.
Entries are only added to OxfordDictionaries.com if there is sufficient evidence of ongoing use – which, it was concluded a year ago, there was not. One year on, upstander has increased in use enough to have an entry created – an increase that was possibly influenced in part by attention to the campaign. This sense was coined in 2002 by the Irish-American diplomat Samantha Power, as a contrast to bystander.
Precariat – most often found as the precariat – is a noun in use in British English meaning ‘people whose employment and income are insecure, especially when considered as a class’. Its origin is in the 1990s, and it is a blend of precarious and proletariat (the latter meaning ‘working-class people regarded collectively’).
Kakistocracy, meaning ‘government by the least suitable or competent citizens of a state’ or, as a count noun, ‘a state or society governed by its least suitable or competent citizens’, has been in the Oxford English Dictionary for over a century, attested from the 1820s (and from the 17th century in the obsolete adjective kakistocratical). It is perhaps a sign of the times, or at least reporting on those times, that it has now also entered our dictionary of current English. The word comes from the Greek kakistos, meaning ‘worst’, and is formed in contrast to aristocracy, from aristo, ‘best’.
Sports and games
This update sees paddleboarding, paddleboarder, and paddleboard added to the dictionary; paddleboarding is ‘the sport or pastime of lying, kneeling, or standing on a paddleboard or surfboard and propelling oneself through the water with a paddle or the hands’. Alongside these is surfer dude, an informal term for ‘a male surfer, particularly one seen as stylish, confident, and relaxed’.
Slackline has been added to OxfordDictionaries.com as both a noun and verb. The verb means to ‘balance on a rope or strip of webbing that is fixed above the ground but not stretched tight’, while the slackline is the ‘rope or strip of webbing’ in question. While rope walking of various sorts has existed for many centuries, this version is only a few decades old.
Turning to video games, avi has also been added. It refers to the icon or figure representing a particular person in a social media service, video game, or similar environment, and is an abbreviation of avatar. Avatar has had this meaning since the 1980s (where it was particularly used of a user in an interactive game or other setting), but the word avatar has existed in Hinduism for at least two centuries more than that as ‘a manifestation of a deity or released soul in bodily form on earth’ (and far longer before it was adopted into English).
An unusual geographical name has also been included in OxfordDictionaries.com for the first time in this update. Turtle Island is a name for North America, used especially among North American Indians. This usage arose during the 20th century and seems to be inspired by association of the continent with the primordial giant turtle on whose back the world was created in Northern Iroquoian and Delaware tradition. However, the phrase was used earlier in some interpretations of North American Indian folklore as a land from which the ancestors of some North American Indian peoples migrated. Use of the name Turtle Island rather than America (which is derived from the name of the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci) emphasizes the fact that the continent was inhabited before the arrival of Europeans.
Gabba has also been added: it’s ‘a form of harsh, aggressive house music characterized by an extremely fast beat’, and also appears in the forms gabba house and gabba techno. It’s not related to the existing entry for Gabba in OxfordDictionaries.com – which is the Gabba, an informal name for the Queensland Cricket Association ground at Woolloongabba in Brisbane. Rather, the newly-added sense of gabba comes from the Dutch gabber, from slang use as ‘mate, lad’.
Ltr and l8r are now in OxfordDictionaries.com as informal corruptions of later. This can be either as an adverb (‘I’ll speak to you ltr’) or an exclamation, where it stands in for ‘see you later’ – as in ‘Gonna go lie down. L8r!’, and similar sentences. Naturally these uses are typographical only; they are pronounced exactly the same as later.
And to finish: an example of the linguistic inventiveness of knitting. To tink is to ‘undo a row of knitting one stitch at a time, in order to correct a mistake’; for example, ‘I can tink a lot faster than I can knit’. To the uninitiated, the etymology of tink may not be immediately clear – but it’s obvious once you know it: tink is the reversal of knit, so the spelling matches the process.