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A war of words: new additions to the dictionary in 2013

As is the case every year, 2013 has seen a new glut of words and phrases given the thumbs up by Oxford Dictionaries Online. As usual, not all of the entries won the hearts of  the linguistic purist either.

Announcements of newly added words to the dictionary always seem to elicit groans from traditionalists shocked that terms like ‘selfie’ and ‘twerk’ could possibly become the norm. Language, however, is an evolving tool. As new technology develops, it’s always inevitable that new words will be coined to describe the way it shapes our behaviour.

‘Selfie’, recently named 2013 word of the year by Oxford English Dictionaries, is a very good example of this. The concept of taking a photograph of yourself is probably as old as photography itself and is sure to have become more common during the ’80s and ’90s when Polaroids and then digital cameras came into people’s hands, but only now is it done often enough to merit having its own word to describe it. The fact that we now carry a digital camera around with us all the time, coupled with the ease of sharing photos on sites like Facebook and Instagram, means that self-taken photos are now common enough to need their own name, if only to distinguish them from conventional snaps.

It’s hard to deny the global impact of the selfie either. Even the Pope got himself in one during 2013, not to mention the rather cringeworthy scene of David Cameron cosying up with Barack Obama and Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt for a self-snap during Nelson Mandela’s recent memorial service.

Similarly, whatever you think of Miley Cyrus and her, er, music, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that she has brought a particular style of dance to mainstream attention. It’s ubiquity in the media – not to mention in town centre clubs on a Saturday night – necessitates a commonly understood word or phrase for it.

Language changes, and it grows and develops with the people that use it. We should embrace additions to the richness of our language, and remember that terms like ‘telephone’ and ‘internet’ would once have seemed outlandish.

That’s not to say, of course, that you have to like these words or feel obliged to use them. In fact, if enough people stop saying and writing them, they won’t stay in the dictionary very long.

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] week, we talked about new additions to Oxford Dictionaries Online and how and why they have been accepted. Is it ever possible, however, that words can enter the […]

    Pingback by Dord is the word: a rogue entry to the dictionary | Pressroom — January 9, 2014 @ 11:14 am

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