WTF is in the dictionary. Can we guess your reaction?
The informal abbreviation of “what the f–k” joins words like “clickbait”, “photobomb” and “emoji” as new entries in the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
The latest additions have journalist Barry Saunders shaking his head. He says syntax and grammar sticklers may as well hand in their weapons. The battle is lost.
Ben Zimmer, on the other hand, says Saunders may be overreacting a touch. The Vocabulary.com editor and language columnist says neologisms like “clickbait” just demonstrate how English, a living language, continues to reinvent itself.
Both join Shad to discuss social media’s effect on slang-slinging youth culture and the real work of lexicographers.
The rules for WOTY selection are simple: Anyone, including the public, can participate. Words can be nominated from the floor (perhaps the only time you’ll see a linguist shout). And the terms should be “newish,” said Ben Zimmer, the chairman of the new words committee and the event’s M.C. Though the contest is called, yes, word of the year, multiword expressions are allowed (to the chagrin of some purists).
Nevertheless, in an age when traditional lexicography might feel like a dying art, democratization is still provoking some anxiety. “Is this kind of crowdsourcing a worthwhile endeavor for dictionary-makers, beyond providing valuable publicity for publishers facing a tough consumer market?” Ben Zimmer asks in an article about the future of online lexicography in the December 2014 issue of Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America. “Or could the reliance on the wisdom of the crowds end up diluting the authority that the leading print dictionaries have traditionally held?”
Your smartphone may now be able to suggest not just words but entire phrases. And the more you use it, the more it remembers, paying attention to repeated words, the structure of your sentences and tone.
All of which is fine, except that it turns the notion of the guiltless autocorrect on its head. These days, autocorrections are likely to tell the person on the receiving end something about you.
“A lot of the time, you can’t even replicate it because it’s so personalized,” said Ben Zimmer, the chairman of the new-words committee at the American Dialect Society, which is devoted to the study of the English language.
The linguist, lexicographer, and language columnist Ben Zimmer talks about the notable words of 2014, including “polar vortex,” “manspreading,” and “conscious uncoupling.” Zimmer is the language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, the executive editor of Vocabulary.com, and the former language columnist for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine.
In January, linguists will gather for the annual meeting of the American Dialect Society in January to vote on the 2014 Word of the Year.
The Oxford Dictionaries already made their 2014 pick, “vape.” But the American Dialect Society holds off until the year is complete. Previous picks include “hashtag,” in 2012, and “because,” in 2013 — an old, common word chosen because it was being used in a new way online (or, as the new construction would have it, “because reasons”).
So what will be the pick this year? Ben Zimmer, language columnist for The Wall Street Journal, will preside over the conference; He talked with NPR’s Arun Rath about some of the contenders. They’re inspired by everything from current events to comedy videos — with a little weather, for good measure.