An Online Dictionary Plans to Catalogue a Million Emerging English Words

By Maddie Stone on at

With viral memes and hashtags sweeping the internet on the daily, language is evolving faster than conventional dictionaries can keep up. You may have been “procrastatweeting” about the “popepocalypse” last week, but the stalwart publishers of the Oxford English won’t give your neologisms official recognition for years to come, if ever. Heck, they didn’t even put hoverboard down until 2015!

Some lexicographers, however believe these internet coinages deserve to be documented now.

The New York Times has a fascinating article today detailing Erin McKean’s new effort to unearth a million up-and-coming English words, those not yet found in traditional dictionaries. McKean, a former editor of the New Oxford American Dictionary, has enlisted a data analytics firm to analyse online publications for language structures and patterns (like quotation marks or em dashes) that might indicate the introduction of a new term. She eventually plans to incorporate the found words into her online dictionary, Wordnik.com.

Got a word you think deserves to be lookupable? McKean’s crowdsourcing ideas right now, before her research gets underway. Even if you don’t care to pollute the English language any further, it’s worth having a glance over the list and taking a moment to ponder the vast word salad your fellow human beings are in the process of creating.

You have to wonder what future 21st century English scholars are going to think of the singular period in human history that gave rise to “blobitecture,” “chumboxes” and the “guacapocalypse.”

[The New York Times]