The Oxford English Dictionary has been a linguistic and cultural institution for over 150 years. It’s not only useful for checking spellings and definitions, but also contains a wealth of information about how the English language has evolved over the years, and is constantly acquiring new words to add to its current 600,000.
Every three months, the OED announces new additions to the dictionary. This month, the dictionary embraced ten new words, including “babe”, “brain candy”, “urb”, “cryonaut”, “environmentally unfriendly” and “green fuel”. Needless to say, this is quite an eclectic bunch of words, and I found many items on the list quite surprising. For example, “babe” is defined as being “a familiar or affectionate form of address for a person of either sex ”, or a way of describing “an attractive man ”. Having been familiar with these usages of the word for as long as I can remember, I was shocked to discover that they had only just gained entry into the OED.
This could be explained by the fact that the OED waits until the use of a word can be described as widespread, and until it has been around for 10 years, before welcoming it into the fold. Other surprisingly late arrivals in the OED include phrases such as “to bang one’s head against a brick wall” and “to hedge one’s bets”, both of which were given dictionary space in March 2011. Again, having grown up hearing these phrases, I was quite startled to find them on this year’s list.
There can be no doubt as to the modernity of certain words and phrases on the list, however. They seem to give a great insight into current trends and concerns within society. The [...]