Monday, February 2, 2009

Words, words, words

happygeek Inside Edge - IT News, Analysis and Opinion
Jul 8th, 2006, 5:15 pm
The latest Merriam-Webster's dictionary update has ruffled a few feathers online. Not for the inclusion of Manga (noun: a Japanese comic book or graphic novel) nor ringtone (noun: the sound made by a cell phone to signal an incoming call) or even supersize (transitive verb: to increase considerably the size, amount, or extent of.)

Could it possibly be mouse potato (noun: a person who spends a great deal of time using a computer) or himbo (noun: and attractive but vacuous man?). Nope, then surely unibrow (noun: a single continuous brow resulting from the growing together of eyebrows) or even soul patch (noun: a small growth of beard under a man's lower lip) must be the cause?

Heck, even spyware (noun: software that is installed in a computer without the user's knowledge and transmits information about the user's computer activities over the Internet) and avian influenza (noun: a highly variable mild to fulminant influenza of birds that is caused by strains of the influenza A virus which may mutate and be transmitted to other vertebrates -- called also bird flu) hasn’t got anyone slightly excited.

Of the 100 new words that have been added to the 2006 update of America’s first and best-selling dictionary, the one that’s attracting all the online attention is google (verb: to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web.)

It remains to be seen whether Google will behave like a drama queen (noun: a person given to often excessively emotional performances or reactions) considering it has frowned on people using google as a verb in print. Indeed, as is often the way with brands protecting their trademarks, Google has positively discouraged such usage. Well now they can’t because it’s official. So can I just say that I google every day and often advise others to go google. As an Englishman I must point out that our very own Oxford English Dictionary made the Google (upper case though) verb inclusion last month with a very similar definition.

Google does have something of a genuine concern, in as far as the inclusion of google as a verb does push it ever closer to becoming part of the general lexicon, and that would mean exclusion from legal protection for the trademark. The fact that Merriam-Webster's chose a lower case google, rather than the upper case OED usage, will ease the concern a tad. But perhaps the days when you can go google at Yahoo! are closer than we might think?


witch girl said...

AT LAST!!!!! Im on! it has been amazing to me not reading these new words, but hearing them from my peers at the theatre where i volunteer. Hearing words that i use every day, like run-through(which in pirate language meant to kill someone, now in the eyes of the theatre, means to act out the entire play as it would be on opening night). To clutch something meant to hold it very tight, but now the noun version is popping up on parisian runways as a small, hand-held purse. I hear people complaining all the time about a worm or a virus in their computers, whereas these two words hae meant two living organisms for centuries. Every few years, music updates itself with the latest technology. Where LPs and cassettes once were, now MP3s and CDs only survive. Survival of the fittest. just like the animal kingdom, words seem to go through a kind of "kill or be killed" phase. When a meaning no longer is prevalent, a new meaning claims its spot. strange, I know. i could be reading it all wrong but thats what i think

David said...

I agree about the evolutionary behavior of words. Compare your observation with the concept of "memes"