August marks the 100th anniversary of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (COED), the smaller but most widely recognized derivative of the official Oxford English Dictionary, or OED. To celebrate, the lexicon published its 12th edition today that adds more than 400 new entries–many of which reflect the technological pervasiveness of modern society, like “woot,” “mankini,” and “jeggings.”
COED Editor Angus Stevenson heads up a small team at the Oxford University Press’s academic cabinet tasked with choosing the next words for inclusion, and the process involves keying popular words into a database that shows frequency of use in print and online.
Since publishing its first edition back in 1911, the COED’s evolution shows the tremendous effects of social media and instant-access technology on language, creating new words but also modifying existing definitions of words like “follower.”
What once meant “a person who imitates or copies” now earns a second and more widely used meaning: “someone who is tracking a particular person, group, etc., on a social networking site.” Another example that’s a little unsettling is the general term “friend” that loses gravity in its new form: “a contact on a social networking Web site.”
On a less serious note, the word “cougar” also comes to mind…
Unsurprisingly, the new dictionary also includes a handful of colloquial slang terms that may seem better suited for the Urban Dictionary, words like:
- mankini (pl. mankinis): A brief one-piece bathing garment for men, with a T-back
- retweet: To repost or forward (on the social networking site Twitter)
- woot: used to express elation, enthusiasm, or triumph (especially in electronic communication)
- noob(pretty sure this is supposed to have two zeros in it): a person who is inexperienced in a particular sphere or activity, especially computing or the use of the Internet
And finally, my personal favorite is “jeggings,” or “tight-fitting stretch trousers for men,” although the entry gives no credit to Conan O’Brien for his unapologetic catwalk last year.