The origin of English words.

The origin of English words.

I just want to remind all my tweeps to refrain from photobombing me unless you want my ripped OH to set a micropig lose on you during one of your date nights.

It sounds ridiculous, and it is, but how many of you recognized six new additions to the online Oxford Dictionary? After all, language is an evolving art form and 2013 saw some interesting additions to the grand old tome. Usually by the time slang is incorporated into something as old and wise as the dictionary, many of us are already using the words or have heard them in some context. Old and wise as the dictionary? Dictionaries have been around forever, right? Not so fast.

The Oxford English Dictionary really isn’t as ancient and definitive (yes- a pun!!) as you might think. It wasn’t until 1857 that the Philological Society of London got together and started to think about putting together a dictionary of the English Language. After five years of hard work, the authors had reached the word “ant” and realized the project was going to take much longer than the planned ten years. Published in multiple volumes, The Oxford English Dictionary (affectionately known as the “OED”), was finally completed in 1928. If you want to read more about this Herculean task, Simon Winchester’s book, The Professor and The Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the OED is a great read.


Language is all about communication and for us to understand each other in the ever evolving reality of today’s world, we have to keep up with the ways in which science, technology, entertainment, and social media change things. These are the areas that probably contribute most of the new words. Gone are the days when writers like Shakespeare created his own words and Lewis Carroll coined vorpal, chortle, galumph, and burble. But maybe not. New words are added every year and they have to come from somewhere. Maybe you will come up with the next slick phrase for something. In the meantime, let’s take a look at a few of the new entries for 2013.

OED Online Additions:

tweeps– (n.) your followers on Twitter

photobomb-(v.) to ruin a photograph by suddenly appearing in the camera’s field of view

as the photo is taken, usually as a prank or joke

OH- (n.) a person’s wife, husband, or partner (“Other Half”, I suppose)

Micropig– (n.) a very small pig usually kept as a pet (I’ve written a book about micro-

elephants as pets and, I firmly believe with this OED addition, it’s time for the book to

be published!!)

ripped-(adj) muscular body

date night & group hug– also made it in

Merriam Webster Additions:

flexitarian– (n.) someone whose meatless diet occasionally contains meat/fish

sexting– (v.) the sending of explicit messages or photos by cellphone

Other catchy additions: game changer, brain cramp, f-bomb, bucket list, aha moment, man cave, energy drink, cloud computing, craft beer  

I’m off to look up cloud computing!




Filed under Book Review, Books

74 responses to “FUN WITH NEW WORDS

  1. This was fun to read–well-written, entertaining, and informative. Hanging around young people alerted me to tweeps and photo bombing, but I’d never heard of micropigs until just now. Something I’ve found interesting about our language is how we’ve turned so many nouns into verbs (like texting and texted).

  2. karenspath

    I’m at least a half a year behind, but I love this post. Your sentence was priceless, and thank goodness I don’t have to use some of those words just because they were added. 😉

  3. I read the Professor and the Madman, and agree it is a fabulous read! In another life I would have been an etymologist. Thanks for a fun read about new words.

  4. Reblogged this on Love Of Words and commented:
    Great post & blog! Thought you all would enjoy this! 🙂

  5. I’ve always admired the English language, and it’s abundance of synonyms and words. Its a fun, and confusing language. Also, I’m kinda surprised at the slang that’s been included. I suppose it is a testament to the importance of language as a whole.

  6. I happen to be a huge fan of literature and fiction. I think the English language requires a structure and an identity. If people just go off half-cocked and start creating new words willy nilly, we’ll end up with a language that just doesn’t make sense to anybody. Even Willy.

    • are you being serious? because the english language honestly doesn’t make sense to begin with… i’m having to study it and there isn’t a single rule that there isn’t an exception too… and we take in words left and right from other languages… we make up words to describe things and then we change it some more… it’s one of the things that honestly makes the english language so great… as well as extremely difficult to learn…

      • This has been an ongoing debate for centuries. Purists resist the entry of new words but they eventually come in as the language has to adapt to new ages.

      • there are other languages that don’t allow new words in… but ours just isn’t one of them… and when people say they want to keep english pure or talk about people needing to follow the rules I don’t think they fully understand how our language works… it’s about as impure as you can get… and if you go back and look at old english or middle english you’ll realize that what we speak now isn’t any where close to how it all began so people should just let it happen…

  7. “Forgetmebot” A robot with a really poor memory system

  8. socalmbutnot

    I recently had to quote the oxford dictionary for a photography assignment on the subject of photobombing. I was surprised to even find it there!

  9. This is very interesting and informative indeed !
    Have wonderful time always 😀

  10. I remember this one. Fascinating book!

  11. omg… it’s like you’re in my linguistics class… my teacher literally just showed us that pie graph today… and of course the whole class is about the creation of the english language… and making new words… it’s crazy when you really start studying the language and realize how complex it truly is… and of course we had to talk about Lewis Carroll who is famous for his nonce words… the hardest part of the class was when we had to create 20 words ourselves… it doesn’t sound hard and I probably just over thought it… but just seriously making up words is weird… i don’t know how Carroll did it… guess that’s what made him so awesome…

  12. Kia © All Rights Reserved.

    Reblogged this on The Review.

  13. asiatrainers

    Thanks. In Singapore we use Singlish, which is the Singapore version of English that includes Malay and Chinese

  14. Reblogged this on shanjeniah and commented:
    Because I just plain love words, and because I want to share this!

  15. I love this – and a friend bought me a copy of The Professor and the Madman a few months ago, with high recommendations. After the April writing frenzy wanes into May, I think I’ll give it a try – but AFTER I finish I Am Not Spock, because I’ve waited 30 years to read that! =D

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! You gave me the chance to “discover you!”

  16. Now I know what to call myself – flexitarian. It sounds better and more accurate than mostly vegetarian. I do know cloud computing, but not micropig. I’ll have to check that out some more.

  17. Thank for visiting and liking a post on my blog. I enjoy learning new words and get daily word.

  18. Reblogged this on mind inundated and commented:
    Let me reblog this so that I can treasure it.

  19. Pingback: Dictionaries, and The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester | lazycoffees

  20. Such a fun exploration of the value of words- and really interesting too. I’m looking forward to reading a bit more from you, and thanks for stopping by blog too!

  21. Have you ever read Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson? A great read for the word lover. Also check out Expletive Deleted. I wrote about it on my blog.

  22. Magena Fawn

    I’ve been calling myself a vegaquarian because I have fish once in a while but no meat. Enjoyed these.

  23. I would like to reblog this with your permission. Please email me at if that is ok. Thanks!

  24. Scott J. Clemons

    Am I the only one who thought of chemistry when you wrote “OH?” Maybe my mind is just too just basic for this blog entry.

  25. I loved The Professor and the Madman and I really dig your blog! Thanks for the interesting read and for visiting our site!

  26. Didn’t Doctor Johnston create a dictionary in the 1600’s? Sorry to ‘buzzkill’ the party. That’s a good word.

  27. Words are wonderful, aren’t they! I’ve had The Professor and the Madman on my shelf for months now and appreciate the nudge to actually get to reading it.

  28. I’m trying to decide if the French would be pleased by having such a large chunk of the English etymological pie, or if they would be appalled …

  29. lilycatbyrne

    Hello, I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! See my post here:

    Well done and best wishes,


  30. That first sentence was quite frightening ! But I woud rather see them add news words to our vocabulary than keep modifying the meaning of older, cherished (to me) words. I used to have an interesting book called Mrs Grundy which traced the change in the meaning of words over the centuries but now I look forward to reading the one you have recommended.

    • I’m a firm believer that language is defined by its users and not any outside authority, but there is still a part of me that agrees with your sentiments. Creative use of language is wonderful, but do we introduce too much ambiguity into our communication by not taking care of our definitions?

  31. My favorite is “ripped” bc it’s meant as a good thing, though the term comes from how you have to tear down and destroy muscles in order for them to grow back stronger…so weird!

  32. LOL! I have a microcow that makes photobombing a lifestyle! Excellent post…I need to work this into a reblog somehow #MindWhirring

  33. The only thing that threw me in the first sentence was OH. 😉 That’s a new one to me. I love how language evolves. And The Professor and the Madman is a wonderful read.

  34. Thank you for liking my post and leading me here. A most interesting and fun post – I’ll be dropping by again. 🙂

  35. That’s awesome and I actually learned something new about English. The more I know the more I realize there’s alot I don’t know!

  36. If you want to truly baffle yourself and other people have a look at
    This is what some might call ‘yoof speak’ – so don’t be surprised to find a lot of profanity and non-PC definitions. On the other hand, today’s teenagers and 20-somethings are tomorrow’s adults so expect at least some of these words to filter through in the next few years.

  37. It’s at least 10 years old now but “Mother tongue” by Bill Bryson is an awesome read for anyone who has the mildest interest on words, where they come from and why one survived over another.

  38. Can’t wait to share with my 8 year old who, today, asked: “is every word in America in the dictionary?” He’s a well known photo bomber 🙂

  39. Fun and interesting. I wrote a column once on cell phone acronyms. I had to look up many of them because other than LOL, I didn’t know many.

  40. You are such an amazing writer! If I could LOVE this article I would!

  41. I really enjoyed reading “The Professor and The Madman”. I’d have to say that if I had to choose one book to accompany me on a desert island, it would have to be the OED: It contains all the ideas, aspirations and possibilities that man has so far identified, and as you point out, it is a living document, evolving with the times, even if we have to endure the occasional “tweep”.

  42. Five years to get to “ant?” I’d have gone mad after six months! A few years back, I remember, the OED added, “Doh!” Now that’s a word I use fairly often.

    • That was my thought, exactly! What a boring (but challenging) job, to move so slowly through an entire language!

      • A lot of the work was done by volunteers, kind of like today’s Wikipedia contributors. What makes the OED pretty unique was that they went back and traced the first use of he word in written English by searching rare books and manuscripts.

  43. Holy Doodles. If f-bomb makes it why can’t that, I ask you? LOL This is at once sad (socially reflective sadness in my opinion) and funny reading (comical what humans invent for tech sake, lol). Critical thinking matters matter more than we know. I have problems understanding this world already – much of it simply does not compute between my ears. Does that mean I’m dead already as akhenkhan indicates in food for thought, lol. Or merely that I have found a place that may understand my ramblings as well as I did your nicely written piece… hmmmm… off for some food… or thought. No, just coffee and to try to keep up with the new “language.” 😀

    • This is one reason that all the psychologists advise hanging around with young people. At least it forces you to keep up to some degree with the way they talk. The only time I was EVER ahead of my kids was that I had a Facebook account before they did. Of course, I had no idea what to do with it, but still…

  44. Didn’t understand any of that first sentence!
    Have been listening to Terence McKenna talk on “language of the unspeakable” and how elfs use glossolalia to communicate yet are completely understood.

    • Yeah, that whole thing about the preoccupation with language really got me. Telepathic translation would be a good thing but at this point, I don’t think I need to worry. Yet.

  45. you neglected to mention “my bad” and “in beta” . We old hippies are having a hard time keeping abreast. Thanks for your post, it was groovy. lol

    • I didn’t see those make it into the OED but they might have made it into another dictionary (they all have their own rules). THe speed of technology doesn’t allow us much time to grasp things anymore. I know I’m old because I don’t recognize any of the people on the talk shows and know so few in entertainment nowadays. And to think, I used to laugh at my parents for being so out of it!

  46. We are currently teaching our year 10’s (15 year olds) about multi-modal language – in other words, text – speak. The amount of analysing that can be done over the simple LOL or OMG is unbelievable! But it serves the purpose of emphasising the evolution of our language and many commentors are not critical of it as long as it is used in the correct place (not on a job application, for instance).

    • I would think that once the word or phrase makes it into the dictionary, it’s only a matter of time before in shows up on job applications and other forms of formal communication. Just like I have trouble understanding body piercing and tats, I know my kids have no problem with it. I’m a dinosaur and I know that language will never be held captive to the past (read here as “my past”). LOL!

  47. If we could come back in a hundred years from now Ellis, would we still be understood? Food for thought. 😀

  48. Glad I’m not the only one who didn’t know what cloud computing meant!

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