By David Gale
Slang words are making their way into the ranks of English”s most elite dictionaries, reflecting a fundamental change in lexicon philosophy.
New inductees into the centuries-old Oxford English Dictionary could give rise to sentences formerly unheard of in formal writing.
Consider the following Oxford-approved sentence: Me and my homie like to cruise full chisel in wife-beaters while we listen to boy bands.
Even Homer Simpson”s famous “d”oh!” has found a place on the dictionary pages.
Consisting of 20 volumes, 300,000 entries and weighing 137.72 pounds, the Oxford English Dictionary has long been considered the ultimate heavyweight in the world of definitions.
The latest Shorter Oxford English Dictionary to be released is a project derived from the vast expanse of the complete edition and has more than 3,000 new words.
Scholars and intellectuals consider many of the new words casual language, or slang.
Surprisingly, some linguists do not seem too outraged at the changes.
“Since the advent of the radio, the whole trend of written discourse is towards more informal, even casual expression,” said Don Norton, assistant professor of Linguistics and English.
“I think the dictionaries are just starting to reflect that,” Norton said.
Norton pointed out that only 1-in-10,000 words ever make it into the dictionary.
Words must be very current and have promise of becoming well established even to be considered for inclusion.
Words also must be readily recognizable across wide demographics.
“Don”t look for NCMO (non-committal make out) in the dictionary,” Norton said. “It”s too culture-specific. But if you said ”cool,” almost anywhere people would understand you.”
Before the 1950s, dictionary editors were extremely conservative. Editors tried to state whether a word was right or wrong and what was acceptable for written speech.
Jargon, if included at all, was labeled slang and dismissed as not worthy of scholarly attention.
The new trend in modern dictionaries is to reflect language how language is being used, instead of correcting it.
“What”s happening now is that they”re putting in words that are general usage, that are no longer situational jargon, so everyone would understand them,” Norton said.