Here at London translations, nothing gets us more excited than the intricacies of language. That’s why we all get giddy with excitement when the Oxford English Dictionary releases their quarterly updates.
Last month’s update was particularly exciting as not only were there more than 500 words added to the OED but several entries were fully revised, including good, better, best, and well for the first time in over 90 years.
It’s a major event in the linguistic calendar and always promotes controversy about the acceptance of words from popular culture into the hallowed text of the Oxford English Dictionary, but really, it’s just the acceptance of the natural evolution of language that has been occurring since the first Homo sapiens decided to communicate through specific grunts and gestures.
All languages naturally live in a state of constant evolution; the English language alone has undergone massive changes in the past century.
English in particular is a fascinating language to observe when considering linguistic evolution. With English being the de facto national language of six countries spread over three separate continents all with their own historical and social influences affecting the colloquial use of English in their countries.
From immigration to popular culture to historical remnants in local culture and customs, language can be easily thought of as a living entity.
The noted Scottish classicist Gilbert Highet summed it up perfectly when he noted, “Language is a living thing. We can feel it changing. Parts of it become old: they drop off and are forgotten. New pieces bud out, spread into leaves, and become big branches, proliferating.”
While many cultures embrace the modernisation and evolution of their language, some are not so welcoming to change. The Académie française, which has been in existence since 1635 and is charged with the preservation and protection of the French language, has been doing its utmost to stem the tide of creeping Americanisms and preventing the adoption of English loanwords into everyday French.
With limited success, the Academy has railed against the adoption of words such as walkman and e-mail; suggesting instead the usage of the French words baladeur and courriel instead.
French adopt “Le Weekend”
The very popular French term of le weekend instead of the traditional La fin de la semaine seems to have caused the most consternation amongst Academy members due to the huge uptake by the French population and media.
Another country that takes a hard stance against any alteration of their language is China.
As we saw last month, the ruling party of China has proclaimed any alteration of the traditional language to be unacceptable – even going as far as to ban wordplay and puns. The trouble with the controlled stagnation of a language at this level is that as modern technology or ideas are introduced it becomes awkward for it to be expressed or discussed.
We love to keep on top of the ever changing nature of language and when and where it is culturally or socially acceptable to implement modern habits.
While it may take longer for official bodies to recognise changes, people are much quicker at adapting to linguistic changes; that’s why when conducting business it’s important to know exactly what is appropriate or not.
Latest Oxford English Dictionary additions
Some of the latest additions to the OED over the past year are:
This is only a small sampling of additions from the past year and while they are now recognised by the OED, we suspect it will be some time before we are using the term ‘amazeballs’ all that often in business.