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New words are flooding the language

May 15, 2014
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

As a wordsmith, I've spent years developing what I hoped was a large, workable vocabulary. I've even considered the contents of my trusty Webster's Dictionary my stock in trade. But these days, the additions to the language are coming faster than I can absorb them. Staying current has become a daunting task.

For those of us who are falling behind there are organizations dedicated to keeping the world informed as new words come along. Last fall, the old, reliable compilation of the Mother Tongue, the Oxford English Dictionary, announced its annual Word of the Year for 2013.

The honor went to "selfie," a self-portrait snapped with a smartphone and shared over social networks. The word is one of the dozens of expressions to come out of the world's infatuation with social media and the current explosion in electronic devices.

While the Oxford Dictionary is monitoring the British scene for additions to English, folks on this side of the Atlantic have developed their own word-watching organization.

The American Dialectic Society came into being in 1991 and has chosen its own Word of the Year annually since then.

In recent years, the Dialectic Society's selections, like the Oxford list, have been heavily drawn from the Internet and social media.

For instance, the 2009 Word of the Year was "tweet," referring to a short, timely message sent via Twitter.

In 2010, the selection was "app," an abbreviation for applications available for smartphones, tablets, notebooks, etc.

In 2012, the Word of the Year was "hashtag," a word or phrase preceded by the hash symbol (#) and used on Twitter to mark a topic.

There are countless other words that have come from the Internet, social media and the electronic gagetry that has made such inroads into modern life. Among these popular new expressions are "unfriend," meaning to remove from a list of personal associates on the website Facebook; "paywall," an arrangement whereby website access is restricted to paying users only; "viral," circulating rapidly on the Internet and "webisode," an episode or short film made for viewing online.

I suspect I'm not the only one who finds today's vocabulary additions enough to boggle the mind. Given this growing list of new words, I'm struggling to stay current.

I've decided the only way to become comfortable with some of these unfamiliar expressions is to follow my old English teacher's advice and use them in sentences.

How hard can that be?

A Tribute to Today's English

A dozen APPS were on her phone

So she would never feel alone.

And as she drove, she loved to TWEET.

She felt it really was no feat.

But then one day, with little thought

She took a SELFIE and got caught.

She hit a hole, then did a spiral

Shots of the crash have now gone VIRAL.



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