Tag Archives: Language

It’s Official…21 New Words Were Added to the Dictionary Using Crowd-Sourcing!

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21_magnetThe first edition of the Collins dictionary published in 1979, with Patrick Hanks as editor and Lawrence Urdang as editorial director, was a milestone in dictionary making as it was the first to use the full power of computer databases and typesetting in the preparation of a dictionary. This meant that, for instance, subject editors could control separate definitions of the same word and the results could be blended into the result, rather than one editor being responsible for a word.

By the third edition, they increasingly used the Bank of English established by Hanks at COBUILD to provide typical definitions rather than examples composed by the lexicographer.

The unabridged Collins English dictionary was published on the web on December 31, 2011 at www.collinsdictionary.com along with the unabridged dictionaries of French, German, Spanish and Italian. The site also includes example sentences showing word usage from the Collins Bank of English Corpus, word frequencies and trends from the Google Ngrams project, and word images from Flickr.

Last year, in August, www.collinsdictionary.comintroduced Facebook-linked crowd-sourcing for neologisms. In other words they asked us (meaning anyone who speaks English) to submit new words for inclusion in the dictionary!

For those of you who are passionate about the preservation and evolution of the English language, that’s not as bad as it sounds. They still maintained overall editorial control in order to be distinguishable from Wiktionary and Urban Dictionary. So just because a word is submitted doesn’t mean it automatically makes it into the dictionary. Editors evaluate and research submissions just as they would any other word under consideration.

Alex Brown, head of digital at Collins, said in a press release, “It is essential that we keep our ear close to the ground listening out for new words emerging from pop culture, science, and technology.” He added; “Most dictionaries are static.” By allowing the public to participate the folks at Collins Dictionary feel that we stay on top of the evolving English language.”

Here are those twenty-one additions:
1. Legbomb – when a person, usually a celebrity, shows off a lot of leg.
2. Cray – commonly used by rappers such as Jay-Z and Kanye West to mean crazy.
3. Yolo – a word used by R&B artist Drake to mean “you only live once.”
4. Tebowing – to drop to a knee as if you’re praying in the nature of NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.
5. Omnishambles – something which is completely and continuously in shambles.
6. Creeping – pursuing women in a nightclub.
7. Mantyhose – tights for men.
8. Tweeps – Twitter users.
9. Twitlit – poems, sayings, and aphorisms that debuted on Twitter and adhere to its 140-character limit.
10. Twitterverse
11. Carmageddon – a state of extreme traffic congestion.
12. Trendfear – the anxiety that you are not up to date on certain trends.
13. Gazanging – when a property seller pulls the plug at the last minute, eaving the buyer hanging.
14. Photobombing – appearing at the back of someone else’s photograph without their realizing it, so they are surprised when they see the photo.
15. Lollage – use of the phrase “lol” meaning “laugh out loud.”
16. Amazeballs – amazing.

Not all of the words are so… nontraditional. For example, Collins editors have also approved words such as :
17. occupy
18. insourcing
19. livestream
20. crowdsource
21. flashmob

The Richness and Diversity of Language

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words do matter - Cincibility/Wordpress

words do matter – Cincibility/Wordpress

There are at least 250,000 words in the English language. However, to think that English – or any language – could hold enough expression to convey the entirety of the human experience would be naive.

HERE ARE A FEW examples of instances where other languages have found the right word for which there is no English equivalent.

1. Toska

RussianVladmir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

2. Mamihlapinatapei

Yagan (indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego) – “the wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people who both desire to initiate something but are both reluctant to start” (Altalang.com)

3. Jayus

Indonesian – “A joke so poorly told and so unfunny that one cannot help but laugh” (Altalang.com)

4. Iktsuarpok

Inuit – “To go outside to check if anyone is coming.” (Altalang.com)

5. Litost

Czech – Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, remarked that “As for the meaning of this word, I have looked in vain in other languages for an equivalent, though I find it difficult to imagine how anyone can understand the human soul without it.” The closest definition is a state of agony and torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery.

6. Kyoikumama

Japanese – “A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement” (Altalang.com)

7. Tartle

Scottish – The act of hestitating while introducing someone because you’ve forgotten their name. (Altalang.com)

8. Ilunga

Tshiluba (Southwest Congo) – A word famous for its untranslatability, most professional translators pinpoint it as the stature of a person “who is ready to forgive and forget any first abuse, tolerate it the second time, but never forgive nor tolerate on the third offense.” (Altalang.com)

9. Prozvonit

Czech – This word means to call a mobile phone and let it ring once so that the other person will call back, saving the first caller money. In Spanish, the phrase for this is “Dar un toque,” or, “To give a touch.” (Altalang.com)

10. Cafuné

Brazilian Portuguese – “The act of tenderly running one’s fingers through someone’s hair.” (Altalang.com)

11. Schadenfreude

German – Quite famous for its meaning that somehow other languages neglected to recognize, this refers to the feeling of pleasure derived by seeing another’s misfortune. I guess “America’s Funniest Moments of Schadenfreude” just didn’t have the same ring to it.

12. Torschlusspanik

German – Translated literally, this word means “gate-closing panic,” but its contextual meaning refers to “the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages.” (Altalang.com)

13. Wabi-Sabi

Japanese – Much has been written on this Japanese concept, but in a sentence, one might be able to understand it as “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.” (Altalang.com)

14. Dépaysement

French – The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country.

15. Tingo

Pascuense (Easter Island) – Hopefully this isn’t a word you’d need often: “the act of taking objects one desires from the house of a friend by gradually borrowing all of them.” (Altalang.com)

16. Hyggelig

Danish – Its “literal” translation into English gives connotations of a warm, friendly, cozy demeanor, but it’s unlikely that these words truly capture the essence of a hyggelig; it’s likely something that must be experienced to be known. I think of good friends, cold beer, and a warm fire. (Altalang.com)

17. L’appel du vide

French – “The call of the void” is this French expression’s literal translation, but more significantly it’s used to describe the instinctive urge to jump from high places.

18. Ya’aburnee

Arabic – Both morbid and beautiful at once, this incantatory word means “You bury me,” a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person because of how difficult it would be to live without them.

19. Duende

Spanish – While originally used to describe a mythical, spritelike entity that possesses humans and creates the feeling of awe of one’s surroundings in nature, its meaning has transitioned into referring to “the mysterious power that a work of art has to deeply move a person.” There’s actually a nightclub in the town of La Linea de la Concepcion, where I teach, named after this word. (Altalang.com)

20. Saudade

Portuguese – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.” Fado music, a type of mournful singing, relates to saudade. (Altalang.com)

The hardest part about learning a new language isn’t so much getting acquainted with the translations of vocabulary and different grammatical forms and bases, but developing an inner reflex that responds to words’ texture, not their translated “ingredients”. When you hear the word “criminal” you don’t think of “one who commits acts outside the law,” but rather the feeling and mental imagery that comes with that word.

Thus these words, while standing out due to our inability to find an equivalent word in out own language, should not be appreciated for the English words that we use to try to describe them, but for their own unique taste and texture. Understanding these words should be like eating the best morsel of your favorite food: the enjoyment doesn’t come from knowing what the chef put into the seasoning, but from the full experience that can only be created by time and emotion

Language Can Corrupt Thought

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PASS the BUCK: Bucking Great Fun!
Image by John Kannenberg via Flickr

George Orwell, in his wonderful 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” noted that language can corrupt thought. We apprehend the world based on the language we use, which is why Confucius said that the first thing he’d do if he were appointed to rule a country would be to fix the language. That is to say, if we actually want accountability and responsibility in the public and private sector, we need to fix our language. Currently we rely on the language of “Pass the Buck.”  We should name those who make decisions and implement policies and then not forget either the people or the decisions when those choices fail.

Passive voice and sentence structure that diffuse responsibility infuriate me. I’m sure we’ve all sat at an airport, waiting for a delayed flight, and heard a customer service representative announce that the airline apologizes for the delay but “the incoming equipment has arrived late.” As though the airplane itself decided to take off and arrive late!  Or another example: an advertisement for a Wall Street Journal conference on the financial crisis that claimed “the world’s financial system has broken down. Credit remains constrained, markets and regulatory regimes have failed.”

The world’s financial system hasn’t just “broken down.”  Someone — or a group of someones — broke it! Credit isn’t “constrained” (that sounds like some mysterious force field is at work.)  Simply put, financial institutions are not making loans… banks that have received billions of dollars in governmental aid are buying distressed financial assets at fire sale prices instead of renegotiating loans and making new ones to keep people in their homes and/or businesses.

That final assertion really irritates me. Regulatory regimes haven’t failed. Deregulation triumphed, pushed by many of the same business executives who now complain vociferously about economic conditions and advocated by the Wall Street Journal — the very same newspaper that held a conference back in March to profit from the troubles it helped produce. As a consequence, there weren’t enough regulatory staff overseeing the U.S. economy — which is why we are not only struggling to avoid a financial meltdown but must deal with issues of toy safety and food contamination in products ranging from spinach to hamburger to peanut butter on a regular basis.

Between 1990 and 2006, the total dollars in the U.S. budget spent for overseeing finance and banking increased merely 25 percent. And here’s an even more dramatic statistic: Between 1980 and 2006, a period covering more than a quarter-century of rapid expansion of the financial sector, the number of full-time equivalent Federal employees regulating finance and banking went up by less than 2,300.  What goes on in public discourse happens inside companies and nonprofit organizations as well. A phrase like “customer service has decreased” leaves those responsible for the decisions that resulted in poorer customer service mysteriously unidentified.

A contrasting example is DaVita, a large kidney dialysis company,  that has among the best clinical outcomes in the industry. This company’s culture is worth emulating. One of its core values is accountability; DaVita believes it produces service excellence. Accountability means that when the CEO has failed to remedy a problem, he stands in front of hundreds of employees and admits it. In doing so, he also admits that the situation is unacceptable. When he doesn’t know something, he admits that, too. No language like “the machine was not repaired,” but acknowledgement of who and what failed and why instead.

Accountability is the first step toward learning and improvement. If all we say is “the regulatory regime failed,” we don’t know why or how. If, instead, we note that specific people pushed for specific policies that resulted in insufficient staff to do the jobs they had, we are on the way to understanding and fixing the problem, as well as preventing its recurrence.

It behooves companies and society to speak the truth. How do you fix a problem if you don’t acknowledge and understand its cause — or, for that matter, its existence?

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