Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Net-age Neologisms

It's always fun to look at what sorts of neologisms are being considered for addition into the hallowed halls of dictionaries. (And interesting to see which words become relegated.)

Recently, the Oxford Dictionaries Online (not the OED) added a few net-age neologisms:


(I wonder if this means that I can use these words in Scrabble?)

Via PhysOrg, we find an interview with Heather Littlefield (head of the Linguistics Dept. at Northeastern University) about why we like Net-based words:
When a cul­ture inte­grates some­thing new—a new tech­nology, for example, or an art form or belief system—new vocab­u­lary enters the lan­guage, giving us the vocabulary we need to talk about it. There are many ways of han­dling this—some­times a language will borrow words from another lan­guage, but often we draw on the resources of our own language. Since the United States has been at the fore­front of devel­oping computer, Internet, cell phone and dig­ital technolo­gies, many of the words for those technolo­ies come from English.

Keeping in mind that these tech­nolo­gies have only been in wide­spread use for the last 20 or 30 years, the words that have entered the lan­guage are very new. But they are so per­va­sive and widely used that we don't even think of them as new any­more! Think about mouse, virus, cookie, thumb­nail and icon: these words are now used in a com­pletely different sense than had orig­i­nally been intended. Or think about all of the new compounds that we've cre­ated: upload, down­load, log-​​in, home­page, World Wide Web, website, flash­drive, smart­phone, and so on. Con­sider acronyms such as GPS, OMG, LOL, PC, DVD, CD, URL and USB; blends such as mal­ware (from mali­cious soft­ware) and blog (weblog); clip­pings such as app (short for application) and net (for Internet); and the use of trade­names and prod­ucts such as Google, Skype, iPod, and iPhone.
Of course, words that deal with technology can also quickly fall out of use (and fall out of official dictionary lists). Just remember what happened in August 2011 with "Cassette Tape" (via Time):
As the Oxford English Dictionary heralds in new words, they’ve ousted some dated terms — including the apparently beloved “cassette tape”.

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