The velvet rope has been lifted for another hot young gaggle of words. This time, Oxford Dictionaries Online–the online-only cousin of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary–is the bouncer who let them in.
In recent years, several neologisms have achieved widespread usage thanks to technology and social media. Consider:
hat tip, n.: in online contexts, used as an acknowledgement that someone has brought a piece of information to the writer’s attention
tweeps, pl. n.: a person’s followers on the social networking site Twitter
lolz, pl. n.: an expression of fun, laughter, or amusement; used especially online.
All three of these are now found in the Oxford Dictionaries Online. Other additions highlight trends that have become widespread, such as photobombing–spoiling a photograph by suddenly appearing in the camera’s field of view as the picture is taken–and vajazzling, a verb that somehow perfectly describes the practice of “adorning the pubic area (of a woman) with crystals, glitter, or other decoration.” (Note the use of parentheses in the preceding definition before we get all judgmental about the ladies’ habits.)
Our modern taste for word-shortening is also on display, with additions such as ridic, an abbreviation for ridiculous, and UI, an abbreviation for user interface. And the ODO gives those maniacally laughing villains the recognition they’ve sought these many years, with mwahahaha finally getting a nod.*
There are also a few additions that feel belated, especially alongside young terms such as lolz. Take, for example, douche. ODO introduces the meaning of “an obnoxious or contemptible person” as a new sense. But Green’s Dictionary of Slang traces the generally abusive use of douchebag back to at least 1950. Date night (a night reserved for a romantic occasion), dirty martini (a gin or vodka cocktail with olive juice) and group hug (you figure it out) seem similarly overdue.
Here are some other terms that made the cut, many reiterating how digital our lives have become:
- Dunbar’s number, n.: a theoretical limit to the number of people with whom any individual is able to sustain a stable or meaningful social relationship (usually considered to be roughly 150).
- ethical hacker, n.: a person who hacks into a computer network in order to test or evaluate its security, rather than with malicious or criminal intent.
- inbox, v.: send a private message or an email to someone (typically another member of a social networking site or Internet message board).
- lifecasting, n.: the practice of broadcasting a continuous live flow of video material on the Internet which documents one’s day-to-day activities.
- micro pig, n.: a pig of a very small, docile, hairless variety, sometimes kept as a pet.
- soul patch, n.: a small tuft of facial hair directly below a man’s lower lip.
- vote, v. [new sense]: dismiss or reject someone or something as unsatisfactory [derived from the reality television show Survivor].
- Wikipedian, n.: a person who contributes to the collaboratively written online encyclopedia Wikipedia, esp. on a regular basis.
* Surely there was some heated behind-the-scenes debate among the lexicographers about how many times “ha” would be repeated. Just take a moment to picture them trying to demonstrate the merits of mwahaha versus mwahahahaha.