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New Words for a New World (Even dictionaries have to adapt to new definitions)

New Words for a New World (Even dictionaries have to adapt to new definitions)
on April, 08 2013

Change is the one thing we can expect. Whatever social and cultural changes are going on in the world, our language is the first to reflect it. We have to constantly come up with new words and new definitions for new things that we do. Sometimes, it’s a result of new products or technology. Take the Internet for instance, which gave rise to a number of verbs and nouns that didn’t even exist at the end of the 20th century.

It’s certainly an interesting time for lexicographers, who constantly have to research new words. In fact, every year, there are quite a few words that are added to new editions of dictionaries. For example, in 2012, Merriam-Webster dictionary added Sexting, game change and man cave.

New terms

There are many terms today that we didn’t expect even just a decade ago. Nouns are becoming verbs, such as gaming or texting. It’s only natural to have new terms as a result of new products out in the market. We didn’t have iPods in the 1980s, the same way a child would probably wonder what a Walkman or Discman is today.

New definitions

At the same time, there are terms today that need to be readjusted to adapt to the way we view things and how things are done.

For example, surfing used to refer to a sporting or recreational activity done on a board involving water and breaking the waves. Nowadays, surfing can also mean to go online and checking out different websites. In the 1980s, it meant constantly changing TV channels till you found something good.

The use of the word “like” has evolved, thanks to Facebook.

Another word that has been given a new definition is underwater. Though the word dates back to 1672, something underwater today can refer to a mortgage loan for which the amount owed is more than the value of the property used in securing the loan. This is obviously due to the home crisis that happened in the US in the late decade.

Mashup is a word that dates back to 1859, but has recently been given a new twist. Now it means combining two elements from two or more different sources. The television show Glee popularized song mashups while the Internet combined data from various sources. Today, even stories are getting their own mashup, such as in the case with classic books getting a new twist (think of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in Zombie version).

Even the social institution of marriage is slowly getting a makeover when it comes to definition. In the US, with the gradual acceptance of some states equality of marriage regardless of gender, Merriam-Webster has already added a new definition to the word. A second definition can now be found to encompass same sex relationships.

All these changes in the language, with new words coming and going each year, only prove that language and culture go hand in hand and truly reflect the constant evolution of things. With the way things are going, don’t be surprised if you hear new words or more new definitions in the coming years.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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