Mind your language and stop worrying about crowdsourced dictionaries

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Crowdsourcing the Dictionary

Words like ‘amazeballs’, ‘Facebook’, ‘totes’ and ‘frenemy’ are officially part of the English language.

In July 2012 the Collins English Dictionary decided to “crowdsource” new words to the English Language by allowing the public to submit words (and definitions) they thought had become part of our everyday lexicon. Late yesterday, it released a list of approximately 80 words that would be added to its online dictionary.

What constitutes an English word or not has more been in the realm of scholars and professors (most notably from Oxford), but the move from Collins certainly shows how much the world has changed. For the first time real people, laymen, the ones who actually use the language, get to have a say in what is legitimate vernacular and what isn’t.

The move would be considered heretical for purists who like the idea that English should remain English and to allow colonials and foreigners to have a say would be downright unthinkable. Then there are those who would think that English should become a more refined language, harking back to the days of Shakespeare and thees and thous. It would be the same English people who forget that the queen herself is of German descent and that the official language of the aristocracy for years was French!

Crowdsourcing the English Language takes us to a whole new level of global integration. As companies and societies become more culturally homogenized it would make sense that language would adapt to allow for more rapid changes. Technology changes at an incredible pace and so too must the language. We can no longer wait for toffee-nosed stiff upper-lipped professors from Oxford to authorise a word for general use.

And that’s what makes the English language unique. It may not be the most widely spoken language (Spanish has that) or the majority of speakers (Mandarin), but it has the flexibility to grow and expand at a pace that is rapid enough to keep up with the advances of technology.

And who knows, maybe in 2013 we can add “cray cray” into our lexicon — it seems the whole world has gone there already.

Image: BigStock

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  • Terry Collmann

    I have seldom read a bigger load of toss about language.

    “What constitutes an English word or not has more been in the realm of scholars and professors” – no it hasn’t. The speakers of English have always been the ones to decide what is or isn’t an English word. No committee of scholars and professors sat down and decided to let bungalow, or kangaroo, or slogan into English – English speakers used those words, and thus they became English.

    “That’s what makes the English language unique … it has the flexibility to grow and expand at a pace that
    is rapid enough to keep up with the advances of technology.”
    Oh, please – do you really think English is somehow uniquely flexible, and no other language can cope with the 21st century? Have you such an encyclopedic knowledge of Mandarin, Russian, German, French, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Hindi, Malayalam, Indonesian, Tagalog, Swahili, Twi, Berber, Hungarian and even Basque that you can declare confidenly not a single one matches English in its flexibility? Or are you a dozy ignorant chauvinist?

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