‘Cheeseball,’ ‘YOLO,’ ‘splendiferous’ become official nomenclature

Oxford English Dictionary’s quarterly update is an ode to the words of today’s youth. Common slang and coinages by children’s author Roald Dahl top the list. Here are insights and highlights.

Millennial marketers rejoice: YOLO is now considered part of the English language.

Sorry, Baby Boomers, Oxford English Dictionary editors think it’s time you stop referring to YOLO as one of those “nonsensical words created by the internet.”

The “definitive record of the English language” has added YOLO—and 1,200 other new words and meanings—to its September edition. Published quarterly since 2000, the updates make up the Third Edition of the OED.

Oxford English Dictionary senior assistant editor, Jonathan Dent, says YOLO—and a number of other September additions—are more historic than many might assume.

From Dent:

The acronym YOLO (1996) is traced back to its antecedent, the axiomatic you only live once, which was (first used in a nineteenth-century English translation of Balzac’s French ‘on ne vit qu’un fois’ in his “Le Cousin Pons”).

Historical significance

With regard to words and terms of lesser-known historic value, here’s what Katherine Martin, the head of U.S. dictionaries for Oxford University Press, told The Washington Post:

This happens more frequently than not. Part of the delight in going down the OED rabbit hole is learning that the etymology of many words actually extends back to long before the web existed. For example, when the dictionary’s editors sought to make a new entry for “O.M.G.” in 2011, lexicographers were surprised to discover the first instance was from a 1917 letter written to Winston Churchill.

Without doing a bit of research first, writers, content creators and traditional wordsmiths shouldn’t turn their noses up at September edition highlights such as yogalates or ‘Merica.

The OED is known for tracking and rubber-stamping what Martin calls “everything that is considered to ever have been a significant word,” and this quarterly update emphasizes that.

Martin says Yolo—along with the recent additions of Moobs, biatch and squee!—should bear equal importance to words that aren’t as slangy or known for their popularity among young people.

Here’s additional historic insight, from Dent:

One of many variant spellings of biatch is first recorded in lyrics by hip-hop artist Too Short from 1986, while squee! was first used to represent any high-pitched squealing sound in 1865, and to express excitement or delight from 1998.

A literary nod

Although many millennial writers might not be aware of the OED’s latest edition, in it, editors are paying tribute to widely beloved and whimsical children’s author Roald Dahl.

His works such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The BFG” and “Matilda” inspired editors to add a range of his unique words, including Oompa Loompa, frightsome, scrummy and a sub-entry for golden ticket.

From the OED:

This month marks the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth and, to mark this occasion, September’s quarterly update to the OED contains a range of revised and newly drafted entries connected to Roald Dahl and his writing, including splendiferous, human bean and Dahlesque.

Not keen on using splendiferous in your next press release? Here are a few marketing and PR-related words to note:

  • Clickbait
  • Client-side
  • Clickjacking
  • Non-apology
  • Click and collect
  • Shoppertainment
  • Shopaholism
  • Upcharge
  • Uh-oh

For a full list of words in the EOD’s quarterly update, check out their online list.

What do you make of the updated terms, Ragan readers? Is anything making you smile? How about making your skin crawl? Please share your feedback in the comments section.

(Image by CanadianDude1 via / CC BY-SA 3.0)


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