Saturday, July 08, 2006

You Can Look It Up

Webster announces which words have "talked" their way into this year's dictionary update.

The mouse potato (who spends as much time on the computer as his/her 1990s counterpart did on the couch), the himbo (attractive, vacuous -- and male) and the excessively emotional drama queen were among 100 new words added to the 2006 update of America's best-selling dictionary, the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.

The Internet search engine Google also found its way into the dictionary for the first time as a verb, meaning to find information quickly on the world wide web.

I. Love. The. English. Language. Among the new entries cited, I have to confess a particular fondness for "himbo," an addition that is long overdue on grounds of fairness alone.

Speaking of words we need, I ran across a new one (at least to me; don't know if this blogger coined it, but if so, I salute him) in the text of this roundup post of rants:

Scrant: A screechy rant.

Talk about a word for these times! May I be the first to nominate it for inclusion in a future edition of the dictionary?

Back to the linked Reuters article:
America's first dictionary -- Noah Webster's A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language -- was published 200 years ago and also introduced a crop of fresh words that have now become familiar.

Those "new" words in 1806 included slang, surf, psychology and, naturally, Americanize.

Never really thought about it, but if someone had asked, I wouldn't have guessed that those words, with the exception of psychology, were that old.

By the way, how I managed to miss the fact that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the first American dictionary is mystifying, given the sort of stuff that normally catches my eye and sustains my attention. (Too much attention to Mozart's 250th birthday, perhaps? Heh.)

In any case, in honor of this momentous bicentennial, here are several quotations relating to words:

In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold, Alike fantastic if too new or old: Be not the first by whom the new are tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside. -- Alexander Pope

"Words are not as satisfactory as we should like them to be, but, like our neighbours, we have got to live with them and must make the best and not the worst of them." -- Samuel Butler

"We have too many high sounding words, and too few actions that correspond with them." -- Abigail Adams

"Don't, Sir, accustom yourself to use big words for little matters." -- Dr Samuel Johnson

"We should have a great fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas only, and not for things themselves." -- John Locke

Thanks to words, we have been able to rise above the brutes; and thanks to words, we have often sunk to the level of the demons.--Aldous Huxley

"He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know." -- Abraham Lincoln

"The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause." -- Mark Twain

"When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain." -- William Shakespeare

"But words are things, and a small drop of ink, Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think." -- Lord Byron

"Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that he sometimes has to eat them." -- Adlai Stevenson

"Although words exist for the most part for the transmission of ideas, there are some which produce such violent disturbance in our feelings that the role they play in the transmission of ideas is lost in the background." -- Albert Einstein

"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." -- Martin Luther King