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The Oxford Dictionary Is a Desperate Attention-Seeker

Your definition of the behaviour of Miley Cyrus's butt doesn't twerk.

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Just like it killed pagers, travel agents, the Free-Ads and innocence, the internet has basically killed the Oxford Dictionary. In its Oxford English Dictionary form (there's a crucial difference), it was the 20-volume, goatskin leather-bound king of bookshelf dictionaries, but now that Oxford Dictionaries Online exists, it's just like any of the other boring databases of words you can find on the internet. Except that you have to pay to use it so no one does. The Oxford Dictionary won't become obsolete, but it’s no longer the go-to for definitions. In fact, – a site that kinda lacks the gravitas of the OD brand – completely smashes it for hits. Hey, things change.


Except change can be a hard thing to embrace. I suppose it’s like when my relationship fell apart so I cut myself bangs, or when I moved into a ground floor flat and forgot to stop walking around nude with all the windows open. For the last few years, the Oxford Dictionary has been stumbling around naked, covered in tufts of its own split ends, desperately grasping at youth culture by incorporating an increasing number of irrelevant words. It’s not "LOL" and I don’t "heart" it. (Which, by the way, has been a grammatically correct sentence since 2011, according to the people who run the Oxford Dictionary.)

This week they added a bunch of kerazy new words, including: “vom”, “phablet” and “twerk”. First it was the faddish and "minging" Ali G-isms, now the OD is taking it upon itself to define the behaviour of Miley Cyrus’ butt. Is all this attention-seeking necessary, guys? I get that you’re trying to record the English language as it develops, but look me in the eye and tell me you’re not also revelling in the headlines, the endless mock-outrage, the publicity, the scandal. Check the back of your skirt because I’m pretty sure it’s tucked into your knickers and your PR department is showing.

Also, by your own definition, a dictionary is “a book or electronic resource that lists the words of a language”. Note that it doesn’t say “some words that were in the paper this week because of the VMAs the other night”. You’ll add “twerk” but not “yanking”? “Street food” but not “munch”? By selectively adding slang terms and refusing to acknowledge others, you're betraying the very definition of what you are. Talk about an identity crisis.


See “twee” and “useless”.

BYOD or “Bring your own device”
A now acceptable phrase to be printed on incredibly sad party invitations.

FOMO or “Fear of missing out”
Drake used it a couple of times last year, meaning it’s just about tired enough to be added into the least culturally aware dictionary of all time.

Again, just about old and off-trend enough to be considered worthy of inclusion, despite being hailed as the shoe of 2012 (by morons).

Do we need a dictionary definition of a word that a few people use ironically to describe shorts made from cutting the lower legs off jeans? Do we?

TL;DR or “Too long; didn’t read”
See “Oxford Dictionary”.

Follow Bertie on Twitter: @bertiebrandes

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