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Put in a good word for the English language


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The English language is unparalleled in its ability to adapt to the times and change according to public interests. In light of this, Collins has recently announced its nationwide search for new words by encouraging the public to submit their favourites online. 

Ingenious pioneers of the English language will no longer remain unrecognised; all words will be reviewed for possible inclusion in the next online and printed editions.

Joey Essex today tweeted his excitement that his brainchild 'reem' had been suggested for the new edition. Other submissions likely to make the grade are yolo, tweeps, twitlit and photobombing.

The reasoning behind Collins decision to encourage public participation is simple. They described this method as an effective way to keep their ‘ear close to the ground’ and discover ‘new words emerging from pop culture, science and technology’. Interestingly, Collins claimed that dictionaries are ‘static’: a description that this publisher hopes to avoid.

However, many English dictionaries have been quick to adapt to the modern world’s influence on our language. In March 2012, the OED announced that its quarterly update would contain 1700 new words and meanings including ludology, or the study of games, and - they make no apologies for this one - the slang of sorry, soz.

Likewise, the latest editions of the Merriam-Webster English Dictionary included mouse potato (an obsessive user of computers) and the sandwich generation (those supporting aging parents and children).  Social media made it into the 2011 edition, along with tweet, bromance and boomerang child – a phenomenon recent graduates may know only too well. The eleventh edition of the Collins dictionary (2011) contained words originating online such as frape, unfollow and foodoir (a combination of memoir and recipes).

Recent additions such as these show the extent to which the internet has influenced communication. Not only is our style of communicating changing – only last week TNS reported that texting had surpassed talking in popularity – but our material is too.

Collins has said that the criteria considered when deciding a dictionary-worthy submission is frequency of use, sources and staying power. With hashtags, retweets, shares and likes, new words or phrases may acquire popular use in an hour and be found all over the internet almost instantly. But does that guarantee their durability? I think not.

What is trending on twitter one day is not likely to be there the next day. Our language may be evolving quickly but English also has an extremely high turnover of words. It is important that the words that make it to the pages of the dictionary are not simply part of a temporary phase but will be employed consistently for some time. When does slang become credible and formal language, obsolete?

When it comes to language, there is always a niche to be filled. Our vocabulary is changing rapidly as we respond to new experiences and an evolving world. It is exciting to find new meanings in fresh combinations, contemporary perspectives in witty expressions. Language is not fixed and cannot be maintained through policies and protectionist organisations. Just as with humans, our words must be the fittest to survive.

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