Sunday, October 5, 2008

Getting crunk with the Oxford English Dictonary

After reading the Best American New Words of 2006 it got me thinking about how a word become an official word. It seams that from looking at the list of new word that a word must have practical usage. More specifically many of the new words look as though they are related directing to a specific field, weather it is medical, science, or even music. The word that pops out to me is crunk. While I’ve used it in my everyday speech, and heard it used I was surprised to see it that it was included in the Oxford English Dictionary. The usage that is defined in the Oxford version of the definition is different than the traditional meaning of the word on Wabash’s campus, however seams to be a valid one nonetheless.
This brings me back to my original thought how does a word become part of the Oxford English Dictionary. Is there a set of criteria that must be met? Is it something as definable as the criteria for statehood? If not, who then decides what makes a word a part of the OED? Does being a part of the OED make it ok to use in formal paper? How do they decide what definition is to go with the word? What happens when the new words become words? Is there a new version of the Dictionary printed each year? If not how often is the dictionary updated and printed. Also if words can become new words, than can old words lose their “wordhood”? (I think that might be a new word for consideration in 2008 Webster) I know that language is ever evolving but can a word ever become extinct or does it reactive a full word tenure, never to be removed for the dictionary, no matter how useless it becomes? Whatever the answer to these questions, it would be interesting to know if the first person to say one of these new words, really intended for it to mean what it does today, much like the way that literary scholars assign a meaning to words of literature.

1 comment:

Ian Bonhotal said...

OED's inclusion of some words and not others seems rather eclectic, I agree.
That said, what's interesting to me, in your post, is that you seemed to delve into the idea of language as living and, one might say, evolving. The metaphor implies that just as new words are born, so also do old words die. A natural process, in my opinion, which the OED does not dictate, but interprets (in an admittedly arbitrary manner).