I read about a word this week and got very excited about writing about it. An article in London’s Evening Standard, about people self-diagnosing themselves on the internet, started with the line: “I have learned a new word this week: cyberchondria”.
Fantastic, I thought, your new word must be my new word, and what a great word it is. Except that the writer and I were both behind the times.
It turns out that cyberchondria has been around since the turn of the century. It appears to have debuted in 2001, with the BBC website writing about it, while by 2003 it had been discussed in The British Medical Journal.
So why am I writing about it, I hear you ask. You just write about brand new words and usages, and this is patently not new, so go and find something else. Well that’s true, but it seems that the wheels of the Oxford English Dictionary move a great deal slower than the wheels of Wordability.
I am writing about it because the OED has just announced the details of the latest quarterly update to its online dictionary, and guess what its headline is. Correct! Cyberchondriac has now been added to the dictionary.
Now I know that the OED has specific criteria for including a word in its dictionary, relating to length of time, frequency and breadth of use and an almost unquantifiable sense of currency, meaning that people don’t have to explain it when they use it. But I do wonder whether they are sometimes taking a bit too long to introduce things.
Wordability has recently written about Tebowing and Linsanity, both of which are already recognised by the Global Language Monitor as words because of their massive usage. Surely then, they should have been included in this OED update as they clearly meet all the criteria required for a new word, as discussed above. But they are not yet there, and it is impossible to say how long it might take for them to appear. And I will also be keeping an eye out for Ineptocracy, which is by some distance the most searched term on Wordability.
Cyberchondria is one of a number of words that I feel should have been included long ago. Others include: babe magnet, a man who is very attractive to women; vodcast, in effect a video podcast; and unspellable, which sounds like it has been around forever.
The OED is the ultimate arbiter of language and of course it has to be absolutely certain about a word’s validity before it will include it. Its quarterly updates allow it to respond to changes in language on an ongoing basis. But the speed with with words are consistently exploding around the world makes me think that their road to official acceptance is going to have to become shorter.