Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's official ... get the fork, we're done

The Oxford-English Dictionary Adds '♥' and 'LOL' as Words

Why add ♥ as a word? A spokesperson clarified, “While symbols do become spelt-out words relatively frequently, it is usually only with a mundane meaning as the name of the symbol… It's very unusual for it to happen in such an evocative and tangential way.”

So much for fighting the good fight, eh?
Perhaps we can take solace in one of the early comments to the article:
"They forgot to rename their book. "The Oxford American College Dictionary of Misspelled words and Slang"'


  1. Look, if "LOL" is a word now, then it should be in the dictionary. All living languages are constantly changing. Please consult your nearest linguist for further education.

  2. Look, mathesian, if you don't stop being such a killjoy, I'm going to use my small magic fire box of communication to say something mean about you. If only there was a more efficient way to say small magic fire box of communication...

  3. This doesn't make them acceptable to use in academic work. It merely acknowledges that we use them as acceptable words in our lexicon, right (as in "I heart this blog"). There are many words in the dictionary that aren't used in academia...

  4. I agree with mathesian here. Linguists love all words. Big words, small words. Fancy words, slang words. Some linguists might even especially love slang words. But to be clear, this doesn't mean that we don't believe in register. Even a linguist would agree that just because something is a word and should be documented as such, doesn't mean that it's appropriate for every register and style.

    (My first post ever! Whee!)

  5. @Wombat--I guess that I, too, am now engaging in an act of a small magic fire box of communication by not being equally alarmed and being more excited by the addition of these words that I use all too regularly than I apparently should be.

    BTW: your small magic fire box of communication should be in the dictionary! ;)

  6. Welcome: @Nearestlinguist. :)

    Now if any of these show up in student essays (I have already seen the dreaded Ell oh Ell), taste the wrath of my grading pencil!!!

  7. It's ye olde prescriptive vs. descriptive debate about dictionaries.

  8. Normally I am all about the neologisms, but the ♥ thing makes me want to cut a bitch. SRSLY.

  9. How about just a dictionary of text-speak? I refuse to "speak" it but I sometimes have no idea what people are saying to me.

  10. I'm sort of in the same camp as Contemplative Cynic. Although these words (if you can even call them that) are part of our everyday lexicon now, they still fall under the umbrella of colloquialisms, which, under most circumstances, don't have a place in academic writing. I actually have an unwritten (i.e., not in the syllabus) policy about text-speak that I inform my students of before their first assignment is due: if I find text-speak in an essay, I don't read any further and it's an automatic failing grade. Sounds harsh, I know, but it works; I have yet to find any internet acronyms in the work they've handed in.

    Frog and Toad: for you!

  11. The only killjoy on this thread is the Wombat.

  12. Thanks, AnthroGirl!

    Nobody with the screen name Wombat of the Copier could ever kill my joy. Every time I see that name and avatar, I giggle like a kid.

  13. I don't think anyone here would argue that language does not evolve and adapt.

    But when the least common denominators start leading the evolution -- Darwin help us all!

    Yes, linguists can and (rightfully) do chart the shifting winds of language. But when one of them there authoritative reference books VALIDATES the vapid and mundane, flakes have a tendency to point to such manuals and say things like ... "see ... f*ck IS a real word, so I can use it 42 times in my paper on Hamster Fur Weaving"

    PS I ♥ Wombat!

  14. @ Aware and Scared:

    It's not the lexicographers' fault that your students have not been taught about register:

    "Lol" and "fuck" are appropriate dictionary entries, as they are, in fact, English words. Presumably it is the duty of those who teach writing to clarify issues of register for students. As I do not teach writing, I am open to correction.

    Also, while this is just my aesthetic opinion, I don't see innovative abbreviations as "the lowest common denominator." They are informal, but so what? On the other hand, "the lowest common denominator" has always lead the evolution, since common speech is the most, well, common.

    Also, I wasn't being sarcastic about talking to a linguist. It would be nice if there were more communication between those who teach the use of language and those who stud it as a science.

  15. Maybe I should add that I do teach writing, but the context so obviously formal (mathematical proofs) that students don't usually mistake it for an informal context.

  16. Anytime, Frog and Toad! :-)

    And Mathesian, I agree with you wholeheartedly that people who teach writing (particularly English profs) should converse with linguists on occasion. This would be really helpful to people teaching students who come from inner-city environments because those students usually speak, and consequently write, in AAVE (African American Vernacular English, aka Ebonics). As any linguist will tell you, AAVE is a dialect of American English that follows specific rules and patterns just like any other dialect. I've seen so many English profs conflate this dialect with poor grammar, and the outcome is usually frustrating for both the student and the instructor. If this problem is approached as a translational issue, then that may result in more success and fewer hurt feelings, frustration etc. for both of them. Of course, the problem is that (to my knowledge) no one has actually compiled a document of direct translation that may be very handy in these situations. And now, to make things even more fun (read: complicated) we have text speak thrown in the mix. *sigh*

  17. I teach at the local "black college". (Not a true 'historically black' college, and black students are still a minority, but this the college of choice for black students in this and the neighboring 4 counties). It's a decent school and there's no notable difference in written-language samples from our black or white students. Spoken, very different. But one of the funniest things I saw was a tour being conducted by a pair of black sorority sisters. One tour guest kept interupting to ask weird questions. I can't remember the exact wording the girls used to inspire his last question, so this will be off (since I know linguists are reading this and will know I'm not getting it quite right) but it went something like this:

    Grounds guy ~50 feet away "Get off the grass!!!"
    Sorority Girl A: "Why he shout like that?"
    Sorority Girl B: "He want us off the grass." [waves tour back onto the side walk]
    Tour guest: "You didn't conjugate the verb correctly. Neither did you."
    Both girls: [scared blank stares]
    Tour guest: "You don't conjugate most of your verbs."
    Sorority Girl A: "What he saying?"
    Tour guest: "You did it again. You should say 'What is he saying?'"
    more blank stares
    Tour guest: I have asperger's syndrome.
    more blank stares
    Tour guest: Is that slang? I don't get slang.
    more blank stares
    Tour guest: [as though reading from a script] I made a mistake. I didn't mean to be rude.

  18. That illuminates something about Asperger's for me that I'd only intuited before. I have friends with it, and they learn the rules - cognitively - and very thoroughly, and then it upsets them sincerely when other people don't follow them. But Tour Guest has obviously had training for this. When everyone suddenly stares at him as if he's said something out of left field, just say "I made a mistake. I didn't mean to be rude. I have Asperger's", and people will understand.

    I find the humility of this genuinely inspiring.

  19. I teach linguistics and courses in our comp sequence and in almost 15 years, I have never had to "teach" a student that "fuck" is inappropriate to use in an essay.

    I also don't think it's ONLY the English comp professors' jobs to teach writing and academic language (that misconception seems to pervade academia). And as Mathesian has already pointed out, writing is NOT limited to the English discipline! Moreover, many other disciplines rely on writing that does not conform to MLA format or modes that we sometimes cover (have you ever read a science report that was written descriptively?).

    I've had to remind students over and over again that lower-case "i" (as in "i ♥ wombat") is not appropriate in academic essays and that writing "LOL" at the end of a sentence in an essay is not preferable. THAT I see more of than any difference in vernacular use of language. We do tend to emphasize that academic language is a different form of language itself so students can learn that sometimes, even literary prose is not appropriate in certain English essays.


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