Bill Lehane

Journalist and writer

‘New words in dictionary’ stories meaningless in online era

In a drive to kickstart my news and media blog afresh, I’ve decided to aim for shorter, punchier posts that don’t fit in a tweet but sit comfortably on a single page.

And what better place to start than this week’s utter nonsense about twerking, a word which while seemingly around since the 1990s, almost no one had heard of mere days ago.

It now forms part of the Oxford English Dictionary online. Online being the key word here as, of course, there are no longer any restraints on how many new words can be added or indeed how often.

Media outlets gleefully covered the latest lexicographic largesse without stopping to wonder if this really represented anything other than a bid for slot one in a trending web search.

Moreover given the inevitable storm of criticism for Miley Cyrus and her suggestive simulations, I wonder if anyone will ever twerk on television again.

The rather more legitimate new entry of selfie has also been included, but while popular now I wonder how long the term will remain in use. Planking anyone?

News providers would do well to learn from Oxford University Press itself, which is well aware of the gulf between a limitless digital repository of wacky words and its premium digital dictionary, where neither twerking nor selfie are to be found.

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