The Ever-Changing English Language

As you are probably aware, the English language is constantly evolving… so much so that the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) adds lists of new entries several times a year. FOMO, hackerspace, twerk, MOOC, phablet, selfie, squee and srsly are some of the newest entries. To see more, click here to visit an entry in The New York Times blog.

In “‘Twerk’ and ‘Selfie’ Added To Online Dictionary”, an article in Forbes, linguist, Geoffrey Nunberg says,

“It used to be in order to make the dictionary you had to have respectable antecedents in literary usage”

Nunberg, a linguist at  the University of California, Berkeley School of Information continues,

“but now they pick words because of Reddit and things like that generating buzz”.

Some language purists object to these additions but the OED’s growth will continue. As Jason Gilbert of Yahoo! Tech puts it in a recent tweet:

John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University, implies that the existence of these words gives insight into cultural shifts,

“On one hand, we have a natural sense that some words are just passing fancies that shouldn’t be documented. But then, we have to think about history. Won’t we want to know in a hundred years — or even fifty — that words like TWERK and SELFIE existed?… We need to get as many words as possible on record, including the vulgar, transitory ones”.

McWhorter has long been supportive of the contemporary shifts in the way people communicate. While many academics are disdainful of the effects texting has had on modern communication styles, including the new OED-accepted words, McWhorter refers to it as a “linguistic miracle” in his popular TED Talk. He argues that texting is not to be viewed as writing, but rather as an alternate form of speaking. Rather than speaking like you write, which is typical of speeches and presentations, texting allows you to write like you speak. He views it as almost another language, and points out how purists have been complaining about the decline of language for thousands of years. He cites an example when, in 63 AD, there were complaints about poor Latin being spoken. This poor language eventually morphed into French!

Why not spend some time thinking about language and the unique ways you can use it? It is more than just a tool. You can have a lot of fun with it, and not just in Boggle or Scrabble, as can be seen in the following clip from The OC.  Over a typical family breakfast, the Cohen family employs both humorous plays on words and a portmanteau that Sandy just likes saying:

Until next time…  yogalates!

Speaking that Connects