I keep thinking about the use of new words in our everyday conversation, and how they just seem to emerge and suddenly everyone is using them. Lately, the word “staycation” has been popping up all over (a staycation is a stay-at-home vacation), possibly because it is getting to be vacation season and people are looking for alternatives to spending money on travel and gas, so I have been thinking about new words and how they are accepted into our society.
Each year, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary adds a few new words to its pages after researching a word’s usage over a period of five years in the media, such as newspapers, magazines, books, movies and music. They count how many times a word has appeared in printed form, the meaning of the word in context and also various spellings are considered. Any word that has appeared five times, in five different sources over a period of five years can be included in the dictionary. (If you are interested in the bit of word trivia, look at their great page of frequently asked questions!)
Some people are hard at work putting together sites online that list weird words, such as Michael Quinion, who “writes on international English from a British viewpoint”. His website, called “World Wide Words” has a particularly interesting page about weird words , but you might also just want to read the general index for interesting words, or let the site surprise you!
I came across an interesting site that allows you to stretch and test your vocabulary skills. FreeRice claims that it donates 20 grains of rice through the UN World Food Network to hungry people for every word that you get correct, but I have no proof of that. Either way, the site is fun, you’ll learn something, feel smart, and hopefully, fill up a bowl of rice that might do some good for someone else.
As new words are added each year to the dictionary, sadly, an old word must be left out. (Can you imagine how big a dictionary would be if we didn’t delete words?) We have a fascinating book in the library by Jeffrey Kacirk called “The word museum : the most remarkable English ever forgotten” which is a study of words that are quietly dropped from our regular vocabulary over time.
So what exactly IS the longest word in the English language? According to the Oxford Dictionary site, the word is :
… which is apparently an upper respiratory illness. (Not surprisingly, the the spell-check feature here claimed the word was spelled incorrectly, but had no suggestions as to a correction.) I guess I’ll just have to trust the good old dictionary.