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• A brabble at an aerodrome? WTF, m8?

By DAVID BLACKBURN [The Spectator] – This is the age of the social network. ‘Re-tweet’ has been officially recognised by both dictionaries as a noun and a verb. It has been joined by an additional definition of ‘cougar’, a noun to describe an older women seeking sex with a much younger man, and ‘Textspeak’, a noun to describe the truncations and abbreviations that are used in text messages, many of which have gone into the language: Lol, WTF, M8 and so forth, as well as the mock-Jamaican patois that has become so infamous in light of the recent riots. And I’m afraid that the exploits of many of our most loved footballers will be immortalised with the formal recognition of the verb ‘to sext’, which, alarmingly, my spellchecker already acknowledges as legit. 

However tempting it is to be reactionary in the face of this assault on common speech, it’s worth recalling what the Fowler brothers said when compiling the first Concise Oxford Dictionary. Angus Stevenson, the editor of the latest COD, reveals in a blog on the OUP’s website that the brothers said: “we admit colloquial, facetious, slang, and vulgar expressions with freedom, merely attaching a cautionary label”. The dictionary was supposed to be organic in the sense that recognised prevailing fashions. So, in 1911, the Fowlers introduced the words ‘foozle’ (to do clumsily or make a mess off), which I believe is still in use, and ‘brabble’ (to have a noisy quarrel), which has been omitted from the latest edition.

It’s striking how quickly terms fall out of fashion. For instance, the new Collins dictionary finds no space for ‘aerodrome’…

Continued in The Spectator | More Chronicle & Notices.

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