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Rick's List — Expanded Vocabulary Edition

Those of us in the writing business get excited four times each year when the Oxford English Dictionary people announce new words they've added — which then become fair game for all of us to use without feeling guilty for slumming it, linguistically speaking.

For instance, if, before the OED's recent June list of new words, you were making conversation or writing a text or email and used "garbageology," you were stupid because "garbeageology" wasn't a real word. Now, though? Yes! The OED says so. Say or write "garbageology" all you want without fear some stern Christopher Hitchens type will shut you down.

As there were over 400 new words added to the OED in June alone, I assume there are folks whose fulltime jobs are to debate whether words are real and should be in the dictionary. Some thoughts:

1. Is being an Oxford English Dictionary Professional Word-Discoverer something that requires field work? Like Indiana Jones with a ballpoint pen and a notebook? I envison this fellow pausing in a Scandinavian forest, ignoring a battle raging all around him between lost Viking tribes, kicking a Cobra in the throat just before the serpent strikes, and jotting in a grimy notebook, "I think I have found a new word! It's 'canarding'!'"

2. Is the Word-Discoverer not at all bothered to have found a Cobra, typically indigenous to India or southeast Asia, in a Norwegian forest?

3. Also, "canarding" means "to play a wind instrument in a such a fashion as to produce duck-like quacks."

4. And before you can ask, each forgotten Viking tribe for whatever reason marches into battle with a company Canarder (is that a word?) — a fellow who plays a wind instrument in such a fashion as to produce the sounds of a truly angry duck, much the way American ground troops used to rush into combat to the inspired strains of the company bugler.

5. Are there formal and tension-charged debates in high-ceilinged halls of the OED campus where Word-Discoverers argue "for" and "against" each new candidate? After grueling argument, a young scholar in a clipped voice says, "We have voted on the motion that 'Carnarding' is a suitable word for the whole world. The results? Forty-seven Word-Discoverers in favor and 12 Word-Discoverers against. Motion carried!" (Hearty applause and a keg is wheeled out.)

6. Can a Word-Discoverer make up words? If so, THAT'S a job I'd like to apply for. "Ludicrosity" is one I'd submit because it rolls off the tongue so much more pleasingly than "ludicrousness."

7. Also: I would submit "humiditity." It's pronounced with a southern twang for emphasis — like "humma-diddity" — and means "really, really, stupid humidity," the sort we're experiencing right now here in southeastern Connecticut and apparently will for many weeks to come.

8. "What do you think?" OED Editor Jonathan Dent asks OED Revision Editor Matthew Baden as they informally discuss potential new words. "Should we include Koster's 'humiditity' on the next ballot?"

"I think not," Baden answers. "If you ask me, Koster's been in the field too long. He claims to have seen a Cobra in Norway."

Denton smirks. "A high point in ludicrosity. You want to get a beer?"

"Yeah, it's really, really stupidly humid out."


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