Last week I blogged about creating words or phrases that your characters can use. Well, that prompted me to wonder – how does a word become official? English is considered a fairly new language, based on words from other languages – Greek, French, etc., and most of those have a Latin origin (hmmm…does this really mean that we all speak Latin? Sometimes it seems so!). But language is a constantly evolving thing.
You’ve seen those ‘Southern Dictionaries’ – the ones that make fun of words like tump (a combination of tip and dump), ain’t (am not/are not), and howdy (how do you do) – and those are the mild ones. Combinations of other words, plus local accents, create new words. But at the core was a need for the word in the first place. Like these ‘southernisms’, a word is often derived from logic (just like Koko and her finger-bracelet). Other times, a slang or short expression becomes so widely used that it gains acceptance. And don’t forget how technology has changed the way we speak.
New words are added to the dictionary every year – Merriam-Webster reports adding over 1700 in 2015. Among those were photobomb, meme, emoji, and net neutrality. Others are dark money, jeggings, and eggcorn (That last one is funny – it sort of explains itself. Look it up!). http://www.inquisitr.com/2122792/merriam-webster-dictionary-2015-new-words-added-include-photobomb-jeggings-meme-and-tons-more/
Sometimes an old word resurfaces. For instance – my mother scorns the usage of nother, as a mispronunciation of another. Well, she’s right, but – surprise! Nother has been around for centuries. ( Dictionary.com -“word formed from misdivision of another as a nother, c.1300.”) It was slang usage even then – who knew they had slang in the 14th century? Now it’s been revived, and is included in most modern dictionaries. Strange, huh?
It’s all so confusing. At what point can we say ‘yes – that’s a real word’? Scrabble fans tell you if it’s not in the dictionary, it’s not a word, and I can see their point – for the game. But many of the words recently added have been around for a long time. So, were they NOT words until Merriam-Webster accepted them and put them in print? How do YOU feel about that?
Wanna know how a word officially gets into the dictionary? http://www.wordcentral.com/edu/gettingin.htm