Fri, Jun 10, 2005 - Page 6 News List

New words in the dictionary describe new English ideas

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Someone, somewhere must talk about diquarks and cackleberries. Why else would Collins have included them in the new edition of its English dictionary? They may be slang, but why waste soldier-dipping time by using four syllables when there is an ancient word that does the job in one?

That's the trouble with collections of new words: pedants scorn those they have never heard of and snort when they find that gems of their own vocabulary have only just made it into print.

Take scrote ("a worthless fellow") -- this has been around for years, as has Band-Aid baby ("a child conceived to strengthen a faltering relationship").

And what of scunnered ("annoyed, discontented, or bored. Nauseated or disgusted")? The Oxford English Dictionary records that the poet William Dunbar used it in the early 16th century. It took Collins 500 years to catch up. Elsewhere they are up-to-the-minute.

Bird flu is in before a single case has been diagnosed in the UK and hobbit is defined in its new anthropological meaning -- "a nickname coined for a very small type of primitive human, Homo floresiensis, following the discovery of remains of eight such people on the island of Flores, Indonesia, in 2004."

Collins has made a bit of a fuss about the aggression and filth creeping into English.

"The variety of names for urban tribes is a sign of the fear people seem to have for them," said Jeremy Butterfield, the dictionary's editor-in-chief. "The obscene and violent words in this edition provide a sinister picture of something that is more and more a part of everyday life."

As for sex, the presence of piking (the spectator sport of observing strangers having sex in parked cars) is a reminder that some Brits prefer watching to doing; those who get on with it may do so in a green-light district ("an area in which prostitution is officially tolerated").

Away from sex and violence, the best word in the list is vuvuzela, South African in origin and meaning "an elongated plastic instrument that football fans blow to make a loud noise similar to the trumpeting of an elephant."

Not common outside South Africa -- yet.

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