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Sunday, March 5, 2017

When Dictionaries Make Us Dumber



The English language gets abused on a regular basis. It used to be that a standard of usage existed and those who didn’t honor it or conform to it were called out for violating the communication norms that glue society together.  Now, a pillar of the standard, Oxford Dictionaries, is bending the rules to legitimize the bastardization of our beloved language.

English in America has been assaulted by:

·         32 million illiterates
·         Foreigners and tourists
·         A declining public education system
·         Pop culture
·         Social media
·         Email shorthand
·         Rushed texting
      Emoji-filled emails

One would think a dictionary would not succumb to the idiocy sweeping the country, where words are coined so swiftly at the speed of the Internet.  The dictionary, instead of waiting a number of years to really see how a word or phrase is used and adopted – or if it just disappears as quickly as it arrived – is now letting any utterance make the cut.

It’s not a novel idea that new words make their way into the dictionary.  The times change – through medicine, science, politics, technology and social interactions – and words must keep up and reflect such changes.  But Oxford Dictionaries is inserting words that many people have never heard of or rarely use.

Maybe I’m out of the dating scene for too long, but I just learned a new word: “Brewer’s droop,” which means an inability for a man to hold an erection as a result of drinking too much alcohol.”  This is not a new concept, so how did society describe this state of arousal prior to such a term?

This one sounds made-up: craptacular; meaning remarkably poor or disappointing, as in very shitty.

Haterade (excessive negativity) and yas (expressing giant pleasure) are the kind of stupid words that need not be promoted by a dictionary.  Once you allow such silly terms to be listed with useful words, you muddy the entire dictionary.  The rate of decline is swift.

Oxford says it updates its collection every three months.  It just dumped 300 words, slang terms, and vulgarities into its vaunted dictionary.

Some should have been in the there a long time ago, like cat lady and another, drink text, is just an offshoot of drunk dial. Some are offensive, like sausage fest, which crudely suggests that the majority of an event's participants are men.  What does one call the female version?  I shudder to ask.

Fitspiration – someone or something that inspires one to exercise or improve their health sounds cute but there’s no limit to attaching “spiration" to any and everything – sexpiration, workspiration, travelspiration, etc.

Words that would make real sense are things like “fake news,” “alternative facts,” and “bigly” – and all of the other terms used by – or to describe – President Trump.  Those words – and his policies – are truly changing how we communicate and what we think. 

Maybe Oxford Dictionaries wants to create a game – create your own word or phrase and make it as useless as possible. If its goal is to create a whole new language – or to ruin the one that this country has enjoyed for hundreds of years – it is scoring high.

I guess the good news is few people consult a dictionary or care to conform to the language that is, so the chances of people adopting these few terms on a mass scale is negligible.  Sadly, the odds of people learning how to speak English properly also stand little chance.

I wonder if there is a word that can be crafted to describe the phenomenon of people seeking to endlessly make up new words while remaining ignorant of the established ones that the vast majority should know.

The dictionary’s new words make it clear that alcohol is a major danger.  I don’t want to suffer Brewer's droop, nor drink text anyone, and I will have to hold back on revealing some truth while under the influence, in vino veritas.  And I certainly don’t want to attend a sausage fest.  Yas!

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs 

7 comments:

  1. You are an 'expert' on language who seems to have no idea how language or dictionaries work. You are making a fool of yourself and your opinions are worthless. Read some linguistics.

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  2. "I shutter to ask." You also struggle with English.

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  3. Never let marketers attempt any serious writing.

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  4. "through medicine, science, politics, technology and socially"

    Through socially?

    "But Oxford Dictionaries is inserting words that many people have never heard of or rarely use."

    Yes. This is literally one of the main purposes of a dictionary—to allow people to learn more about unfamiliar words.

    "This one sounds made-up"

    As opposed to handed down from On High?

    "I shutter to ask."

    And this mistake makes me shudder.

    "Sadly, the chances of people learning how to speak English properly also stands little chance."

    The chances stands little chance?

    The bastardization of our beloved language, indeed.

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  5. 'I shutter to ask'! ''An events' participants'! You are an illiterate advising us on words. Is this column a joke?

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  6. I see you've made corrections to your illiterate and clumsy English. Unfortunately, you are still talking drivel.

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  7. "I wonder if there is a word that can be crafted to describe the phenomenon of people seeking to endlessly make up new words while remaining ignorant of the established ones that the vast majority should know."

    Well, we could start with neology, a word that the illiterate Thomas Jefferson seems to have made up.

    Then we've got logodaedaly, which Nabokov used. But he wasn't a native English-speaker, so he doesn't count.

    Paronomasia can account for some of those new words, I'm sure, though if you reach too far for the joke, it can fall flat. If it does, it probably won't get in the dictionary.

    Wordplay is probably the most easily digestible word for this, but you might not accept that. English speakers and word lovers like to have fun with their language, and sometimes that means straying from your normalcy (how dare I use that "word"?) into lexical chicanery.

    To put it another way, just because the instructions show how to make a castle doesn't mean we can't make a car out of our Legos. They're our Legos, after all.

    ReplyDelete