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What’s in a word?

What’s in a word?

By Dear Molly

If you’ve ever watched the film The Professor and The Madman, (and we strongly suggest you do) you would be well aware compiling the Oxford English Dictionary was no mean feat.

The principal dictionary of the English language took no fewer than 84 years to go from concept to complete first edition, and each year thousands of words are added, along with revisions to existing entries.

What gets added?

In most years new word additions will range from references to pop culture to new expressions, adjectives and more.

For example, in 2019, chillax, Jedi, cryptocurrency, and whatevs graced the Oxford English Dictionary for the first time.

Now, the dictionary’s revision editors have released their latest list of new additions as of March 2021, and it makes for some interesting reading.

So, what made the most recent grade according to the definitive record of the English language? Drum roll please….

Words that reflect a changing culture

Among the new words to be re-defined or added to the Oxford English Dictionary this quarter are many that reflect our modern culture.

In fact, over 750 words and terms were revisited, while 700 new words, senses, phrases, and compounds were added.

Pay gap made the list of terms added, while keyboard warrior, fat-shaming and gig economy also received some fresh attention.

Anti-black was a new entry, along with allyship, astraphobia (the fear of thunderstorms or lightning), lip balm, overshare, queerbaiting, and zip-tie.

An unprecedented year of words in 2020

The Oxford English Dictionary also recently took a good hard look at the big words of 2020, noting for the first time, they would not name a word of the year because it was 2020 was “a year which cannot be neatly accommodated in one single word”.

Instead, they opted to release “Words of an unprecedented year”, which naturally included Coronavirus, and Covid-19.

Accompanying those were, “circuit breaker”, “lockdown”, “shelter-in-place”, “bubbles”, “face masks” and “key workers”, along with “black lives matter”, “BLM”, “QAnon” and “conspiracy theory”.

It was a year which clearly reflected a world transfixed by news, a new normal and rapidly changing events.

“What words best describe 2020? A strange year? A crazy year? A lost year?” The Oxford English Dictionary asked in its report on 2020.

“Oxford Languages’ monitor corpus of English shows a huge upsurge in usage of each of those phrases compared to 2019.

“Though what was genuinely unprecedented this year was the hyper-speed at which the English-speaking world amassed a new collective vocabulary relating to the coronavirus, and how quickly it became, in many instances, a core part of the language.”

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