So there I was reading The Washington Post a little over a week ago (yes the paper version) where the article by Michael Dirda bemoaning the new words allowed into the Oxford Online Dictionary stopped me cold. Most of the new words approved had their origin in the succinct and abbreviated word stylings of the text message (or msg to be correct). Most of us will recognize them as the spellings prevalent among the younger generation, meaning not mine. I have to admit my first inclination was to agree with Mr. Dirda. I was definitely channeling my inner Andy Rooney (I fear a google coming) when I thought of “lol”, “srsly”, “squee” or “twerk” or “vom” as the new norm when communicating with others. Oh, to squee when first I hear the sounds of spring! Not quite the same is it?
And twerk brings up the image of Miley Cyrus that invaded my media for an interminable amount of time. Really? That made me feel so old. There’s jorts and selfie (something I have not done as yet, perhaps I should put it on my bucket list). Space tourism, street food, and blondie, well I thought those were already present in the dictionary. There is FOMO and MOOC, but as I live in the DC Metro area, acronyms are a way of life. Think DOD, FBI, NSA, CIA, well I think you are getting the picture, right? What are two more? Plus I love SNAFU, an oldie but goodie. Am I wrong here? And the new word omnishambles is positively brilliant. I will have to find ways to use that one in the future. And it’s that word’s inclusion that started to bring me out of my “snarkfest”.
You see, I love words. I love them separately, I love them strung together in passages so lyrical that you weep or so audaciously humorous that your sides hurt for hours. I love their beauty in poems with ring with passion or flow with a quiet serenity that leaves you gasping in awe. I love them in songs that won’t get out of my head and in stories that keep me awake and away from my bed. So many wonderful words that it takes volumes to make note of them all.
Take a moment and think of some of your favorite words. Serendipity or even better serendipitous is one of mine. Just say it. Doesn’t it sound whimsical? There is lush, and shimmering, salubrious and evanescent. And loquacious, another beloved of mine. How could any of those be replaced? Then there is snark, crabby, and malignant, to say nothing of drab. Drab. Even vocalizing it is, well, drab! And kind of sad. And if there are so many beautiful words that sing to us, there are also those ugliest by definition and sound. What comes to mind and mouth when saying phlegm or pus? Or scab, discharge or moist? Can fetid, curdle, or vomits be far behind? Does vom even come close to replacing those? I think not. Even the ever present LOL falls far short of the emotional texture of “laughing uncontrollably”, “gales of laughter” or “giggling until you puke”.
But just when I am at my most irascible, three words pop into my head. “The frumious Bandersnatch”. Ah, here is Lewis Carroll coming to save me from further cantankerous musings. All I have to do is recite The Jabberwocky, that amazing and magical piece of nonsense that never fails to make me grin.
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
That’s the opening stanza of The Jabberwocky. I am sure there are those of you out there now saying “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!” It makes me want to grab up a branch and march about a tree or through the woods, chanting as I go. Or if Lewis Carroll isn’t your thing, perhaps it is Dr. Suess and his rhymes? Could we have slithy toves if we don’t allow new words? Shouldn’t a language be allowed to change with its people and times?
For me the answer is yes, as along as we don’t leave the old behind. New words to light the way and the old ones to pave the way to our past. Both are necessary to who we are and how we think. I would no more give up my “vorpal blade” or “tulgey wood” than I would the new shiny omnishambles. Just a small plea. When we are texting, slicing away letters for the sake of brevity, spare a thought or maybe two for those words we cannot live or should not live without. For myself, the world would be a far smaller place without tatterdemalion. I love that word. If it is a new one for you, please go past the Wikipedia for a definition for it has its origin in the 1600’s. A most useful word to go along with dandy.
I have included several links below, including that of The Washington Post article that started it all. I now close my first Sunday Ramblings, my coffee and paper still call. What words can you not live without? Scattered Words wants to know.
“Oxford Dictionaries adds ‘twerk,’ ‘FOMO,’ ‘selfie,’ and other words that make me vom” by Michael Dirda of The Washington Post