OMG! Oxford English Dictionary Succumbs to Text-Lingo

By Tracey E. Schelmetic March 25, 2011

I guess we can't accuse the Oxford English Dictionary of being stuffy anymore. With the OED's newest entries, it would appear that the venerable old dictionary is catching up with modern life.

Among its newest approved entries is OMG! The exclamatory online abbreviation has won the approval of the Oxford English Dictionary that is short for “Oh, My God!” and is usually typed into text messages and e-mails, but seldom by anyone under the age of 25. The term is only one of dozens of new entries in the authoritative reference book's latest online update, according to ABC News.

Other Internet-inspired expressions given the stamp of approval include LOL, for “laughing out loud,” IMHO, which stands for “in my humble opinion” and BFF, which is for “best friends forever.”

OED compilers said that although the terms are associated with modern electronic communications, some are surprisingly old. The first confirmed use of “OMG” was in a letter in 1917 (presumably by someone under 25).

“Things people think are new words normally have a longer history,” said Graeme Diamond, the dictionary's principal editor for new words. “Who knows how many people from 1917 onwards were using that term, in correspondence that we just don't have access to. With the advent of the mass media we have access to much more personal information.”

Other new terms include “ego-surfing,” the practice of searching for your own name on the Internet; and “dot bomb,” a failed Internet company.

Not all the new abbreviations originated online. One new entry is wag, for “wives and girlfriends.” First used in 2002 to describe the female partners of British football teams, it is now used to denote the glamorous and extravagant female partners of male celebrities.

“By our standards WAG is a real rocket of a word,” Diamond said. “To go from being coined in 2002 to being included in 2011 is quite unusual.”

The new update includes about 900 new words and meanings, from “flat white” --  a milky espresso-based drink originating from Australia and New Zealand -- to “muffin top,” defined as “a protuberance of flesh above the waistband of a tight pair of trousers.”

The dictionary also includes a new entry for “heart” as a verb, a casual equivalent of “to love” that is represented with a symbol, as seen on millions of souvenirs proclaiming “I (heart) New York.”

Editors publish updates to the online Oxford every three months. The Internet version of the dictionary, which launched in 2000, gets two million hits a month from subscribers and may eventually replace the mammoth 20-volume printed Oxford English Dictionary, last published in 1989.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Contributor

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