Monthly Archives: August 2012

A New Project for a New Season

As sports fans in the UK deal with symptoms of Olympics withdrawal, at least the return of the football season can act as some kind of quick fix to help ease the pain.

But supporters – beware. Watch very carefully how your manager talks about the upcoming season. Is it a season of consolidation? Is it a tilt at the play-offs? Or is it a example of the word that has crept into football management in the last few seasons, a word which should strike fear into you all? Is it a project?

Project has become shorthand in the world of manager-speak for a big job, a rebuilding job, a long-term vision. “I am excited by the project”, the manager will say at his opening press conference, and everybody nods wisely, excited by this man’s wisdom and long-term planning.

Of course, project is a euphemism. It’s a way of saying ‘don’t expect us to win anything for three years’, or ‘don’t expect to see me in this job this time next season’, or even ‘I don’t really know how this is going to work out, but if I call it a project, it sounds grand’.

Andre Villas-Boas is tarnished by his failed project at Chelsea, Sven-Goran Eriksson probably still has sleepless nights about his bizarre project at Notts County, and Arsenal fans may now be quaking in their boots as their future is given the project treatment.

So if your team’s manager is publicly rubbing his hands together in glee and preparing you all for the start of his project, be afraid, be very afraid. Oh, and start thinking who you want your next manager to be.

Is Romney Hood A Case of Obamaloney?

I think Mitt Romney has been reading Wordability. The Republican candidate for the US Presidency has featured on these cyber pages a disproportionate amount of times in the last few weeks, so has clearly decided that if I am going to write about him, he had better actively coin a new word rather than have one made for him.

And so is born Obamaloney. Now non-Wordability fans will conclude that Mr Romney is looking for a word with which to attack the president, and feels that this neologism sums up the idea that Mr Obama’s attacks on him are full of nonsense, or baloney, to borrow the vernacular.

Others might contend that he came up with the word to counter Romney Hood, the Obama language attack which seeks to characterise his tax plans as stealing from the poor to benefit the rich.

But of course, they would be wrong. Mr Romney was keen for some positive coverage on Wordablity, and so he got into the world of coining new words in order to curry favour with me.

The problem? The word has to be good. It has to trip off the tongue. It has to be obvious what it means. And does Obamaloney succeed in any of this? Er, no.

Another fine Romneyshambles then.

Collins Makes The Dictionary Democratic

A new initative by Collins dictionaries could change the way that dictionaries are compiled forever. The company is asking members of the public to submit words to be considered for future editions.

Submission is clearly not a guarantee of success – all suggested words are put through the same rigorous assessment that a word selected by an editor would then undergo. But the amount of coverage this story has received, together with the number of words being suggested, shows just how interested people are in the evolution of English and the new words that are constantly emerging.

It is also encouraging to see some of the words being suggested, with Wordability favourites such as omnishambles and Tebowing battling with cyberstalking, amazeballs and mantyhose for attention. At this stage, nobody knows how many of these will finally be accepted. But if they are, it will prove that the acceptance process is becoming as quick as it needs to be in the age of the internet.

The level of interest has been something of a surprise to Alex Brown, the head of digital at Harper Collins. Wordability spoke to him shortly after the launch of the What’s Your Word initiative, and during the conversation, the 2,000th word was submitted. It was prairiedogged, the feeling of helplessness that overtakes you when co-workers in neighbouring cubicles constantly pop their heads up to ask you trivial, silly or frivolous questions. It was subsequently rejected by editors.

Its rejection confirms that this is still serious dictionary-making, with the submission process the only part which has been opened up. Alex told me: “This isn’t Urban Dictionary. We still have a team of editors and researchers who moderate to see if the words meet the minimum level of criteria and we are not changing that as we see it as a strength. The site opens a window on that whole process.”

He said that while they expected to receive words from technology and social media, there have been some surprises. “We have been surprised by the number of regional dialect words, and some of them are difficult to find evidence of because they are spoken not written. The global nature has also been a surprise, with quite a lot of words from India, for example, which are concepts around religion or food.”

Alex said that What’s Your Word will now be a permanent feature of the Collins process. At the moment, words which are approved still have to wait a few weeks to receive their dictionary stripes, but in time, he would like to see that process made live.

One of the advantages of this process is that words can now reach dictionaries quicker. I have often bemoaned how slow the Oxford English Dictionary is to accept new words, and while Collins will still have the final say, What’s Your Word will perform the vital process of recognising that language change itself has changed, and that the dictionary process needs to evolve along with that.