Shelley, in his posting Doesn’t have the chops . . .
, referred to my above discussion of several years ago. In it I mentioned some information on new words that I had found on a Random House
website. In doing a search today to find where that information came from, I discovered that it actually came from the following interesting article on the New House News
) about the then new 2002 edition of Merriam-Webster’s
10th edition of their Collegiate Dictionary
. And it does contain that newer meaning of the word CHOPS
: “(slang) Expertise in a particular field or activity.” which has now been incorporated into all newer editions of the M-W Collegiate Dictionary as well as M-W Online (http://www.m-w.com
Hottie' Is In, `9/11' Out (For Now) in New Dictionary
By Ivelisse DeJesus [[no date on the article but probably early 2002]]
Although the devastating events of Sept. 11 instantly transformed so much in American life, it will probably take a good deal longer to determine if the terror attacks left a permanent mark on the American idiom.
Lexicographers at Merriam-Webster Inc., which will release the 10th edition of its hugely popular Collegiate Dictionary on Tuesday, say that because of the deliberate way language evolves, it is just too soon to include any Sept. 11 references in the 2002 dictionary, despite the obvious impact of the events
"Words that qualify for entry are words that have stood the test of time," said Arthur Bicknell, a spokesman for the Springfield, Mass., company, which will have the new edition available online on New Year's Day at http://www.m-w.com
But he said the company's word-watchers (a term that's not in the dictionary, actually) are closely monitoring the national conversation to see if any new words -- or new meanings of established words -- will eventually merit inclusion.
Bicknell said the Merriam-Webster editors have a daily chore of "reading and marking," which means they scour books, newspapers, magazines, the Internet -- even menus -- for new words or meanings. When they find them, they are compiled in a massive, 6 million-entry database of citations.
Then the terms must undergo further scrutiny under two tough criteria: popularity and endurance.
Macarena, for example, did not make the cut. "It didn't last long enough," Bicknell said of the dance routine.
Charting the development of language is not as scientific as it sounds.
"The lexicographers kind of feel it out" as to which words have legs, Bicknell said.
Ironically, one phrase the word mavens are watching -- "That's so 9/10" -- could apply to the new entries for the 2002 edition.
When people say, "That's so 9/10," they are referring to the more innocent era before the attacks -- an era reflected in the new entries and new meanings of words for 2002 that Americans found apparently indispensable in recent years.
Among the new words:
Hottie: A physically attractive person (of either sex).
Dollarization: The adoption of the U.S. dollar as a country's official currency.
e-book: (always lowercase) A book composed on or converted to digital format for display on a computer screen or hand-held device.
webcam: (also lowercase) A camera used in transmitting live images over the World Wide Web.
In addition, several commonplace words took on added meanings:
Burn: To record data (on an optical disk) with a laser.
Chops: (slang) Expertise in a particular field or activity.
Rave: A large overnight dance party featuring techno music and usually involving the taking of mind-altering drugs.
Aside from new entries, it is clear that Sept. 11 did immediately affect the way Americans sought to communicate the tumult of emotions.
Merriam-Webster's annual survey of most frequently looked-up words on its Web site showed that terms related to the attacks in New York and Washington have consistently dominated the dictionary's top 100 spots on its online edition for the past three months.
And like a chronicle of the nation's psyche, the words have changed over the months as Americans searched for terms that resonated with their shifting feelings, said John Morse, president and publisher of Merriam-Webster Inc.
On Sept. 11, for example, words dealing with the physical details of the attacks accounted for most of the dictionary's hits -- words like triage, rubble, hijack and casualty.
By the second and third day, an overwhelming number of the hits were for descriptive words like tragedy, infamy, pandemonium, heinous and horrific. These were followed by words that sought to verbalize the awful range of reactions -- from revulsion, retribution and retaliation to condolence and resolution.
"If you need one more piece of evidence as to how that event was different in the order of its magnitude from anything else, here it is," said Morse. "This is very compelling evidence that people were trying to understand an event through words."
One of the most consistently looked-up words since Sept. 11, Morse said, has been succumb, a word that may have seemed to convey the victims' fate better than its simpler synonym, die.
To be sure, certain words and phrases will forever take on a different association, such as ground zero. The phrase, which refers to the place where a bomb explodes, was coined in the 1940s in connection with the blast caused by an atomic bomb. Now it will undoubtedly always be associated with the attack on the World Trade Center.
"I think it'll be remembered the way Gettysburg reminds us of the big battle of the Civil War," said Allan Metcalf, executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, a scholarly linguistic organization. "I suspect when something new is built there, people will still talk about it as Ground Zero."
Ken G – July 9, 2005