Amazeballs to Zhoosh: Collins’ First Fruits

The dictionary revolution has truly started. Collins recently announced plans to open up the dictionary-making process to the public, and the What’s Your Word feature is now a permanent slot on the company’s website, allowing anybody to submit a word for lexicographical consideration.

Well Collins has now revealed the first words which it will include in its online dictionary. It’s a pleasingly eclectic bunch, reflecting a wide range of subjects and showcasing many words which have long since deserved their place in official reference books.

Unsurprisingly, words from technology provide fertile ground for the list. BBM and Bing carry the flag for Blackberry and Microsoft, while Twitter is well represented with three entries, Tweetup, Twitterer and Twittersphere. Bashtag, a critical hashtag, is also included. It’s also good to see more generic terms like Liveblog, Captcha and Cyberstalking making the cut.

One trend in the list is new definitions for existing words, such as Facebook as a verb, as in To Facebook someone, a usage which Wordability discussed last year. My niece will also be pleased to see that Sick, meaning good, has now been included, as it means I will no longer give her a hard stare every time I hear her say it.

Much slang and informality has been recognised for the permanent place it now has in the language. As well as the titular Amazeballs (enthusiastic approval) and Zhoosh (to make more exciting), words such as Bridezilla (an intolerable planner of her own wedding), Frenemy (a friend who behaves like an enemy) and Mummy Porn (erotic fiction for women) are bound to get attention.

There are some unusual additions. Indian cookery is a surprisingly tasty element to the list of words, with Dosa and Sambar being included, as well as Daal as an alternative spelling of Dal. Some regional dialect words are also in, such as Frape from the South West, meaning tightly bound, or Marra, a mate in Northern England. There were also some I had not heard before which simply made me laugh, such as Hangry, meaning irritable because you haven’t eaten, a state I am perpetually in, or Photobomb, which means to go into the background of somebody’s photo without realising it.

It really struck me though how useful this whole enterprise has been. I was frankly surprised to see some of the words and usages included for the first time, such as Faff as a noun, meaning something is a bit awkward to do, or Oojamaflip, a term for something when you can’t quite remember what it is. It’s a reminder that it does take a long time for terms to make it to the dictionary.

Nevertheless, Collins’ efforts to let the world at large add to the dictionary-making process is to be applauded. This first tranche of words helps its online dictionary get bang up to date. With the initiative remaining in place, it will be in pole position to add words as soon as they gain some currency and will surely help the company reflect English as it is spoken today.

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