Words like ‘hangry’ and ‘mansplaining’ are probably part of your vocabulary already – and now they’ve got an official stamp of approval as part of a new group of words being added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).
More than 1,100 words are part of this year’s intake.
Modern words like ‘hangry’, ‘mansplaining’ and ‘me time’ are joined by “words that have seen a shift in sense”, like ‘snowflake’. And words you may not have heard of, such as ‘northern flicker’ (which is a migratory woodpecker), hazzled (meaning ‘chapped’), and ‘electric catfish’ (a type of fish) also join the list.
Last year’s words included YOLO, gender-fluid and yogalates.
“Just a decade ago, the verb mansplain did not exist, but the word and the concept (a man’s action of explaining something needlessly, overbearingly, or condescendingly, especially to a woman, in a manner thought to reveal a patronizing or chauvinistic attitude) are now an established part of English-language discourse,” explains Katherine Connor Martin, Head of US Dictionaries, in a blog post.
The first known usage of the word was not, as many people believe, in Rebecca Solnit’s essay Men Explain Things To Me. In fact, it was first seen in a comment on LiveJournal in 2008.
Hangry, Connor Martin explains, has only gained traction in the 21st century – but the earliest known use of the word was actually in 1956, in an “unusual article in the psychoanalytic journal American Imago”
”The author mentions hangry in a discussion of words formed by contraction or elision,” she explains. “Some of these, like brunch, were already established at the time, but most of them, such as criumph (a crime triumph), and sexperience (sexual experience), have still not caught on with the English-speaking public.”
Other words of note being added to the dictionary include ‘me time’ (“time devoted to doing what one wants, typically on one’s own”), ‘swag’ (“bold self-assurance in style or manner”), ‘ransomware’ (“a type of malware designed to block access to applications or files on a computer system until a sum of money is paid”) and ‘snowflake’.
The use of snowflake as a derogatory term has become “prominent on social media in recent years,” Connor Martin explains – but the word actually has its roots in something a lot more positive. In 1983, the term referred to “a person, especially a child, regarding as having a unique personality and potential”.
That changed in the 1990s, largely because of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, which precipitated the word’s move towards a term used to describe someone as “overly sensitive or easily offended”. “In this way, the original idea of a snowflake’s uniqueness has been displaced by allusion to its fragility,” Connor Martin says.
The full list of this year’s new words can be found here.
Image: Oxford English Dictionary