Dictionary adds ‘bitcoin,’ ‘twerk’

I have written often about language as a fluid, evolving system. Dictionaries – the guide to the system – are obviously compelled to evolve as well.

New words are added yearly, typically in large batches, after a sufficient amount of time and “mainstreaming.” In the 1980s, when cosmetic lipoplasty began to hit the scene (the procedure had been around for a while before that, of course), dictionaries added the word we all know it by: liposuction. In 1990, in what I can only imagine was hailed as a long-overdue recognition of modern life, the word “paperclip” was officially recognized. I wonder what we called it before that?

In August, we got another batch of words added to the Oxford English Dictionary … and I’d be lying if I said some of them didn’t worry me a bit. But, language rolls ever onward I suppose. In the spirit of progress, here are a few of the more … interesting … words Oxford has chosen to recognize:

Jorts: Denim shorts.

Emoji: A small, digital image or icon used to express and idea or emotion.

TL;DR: This is an acronym made popular on Internet forums like Reddit. It stands for “too long; didn’t read.”

The Internet demands brevity, apparently.

Selfie: A photograph taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone or webcam.

You may remember a number of congressmen who’ve seen their careers implode over ill-advised selfies.

Twerk: Dancing in a sexually provocative manner.

If you saw Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance, that was “twerking” … among other things.

Bitcoin: A digital, non-centralized currency. Bitcoins are used as a peer-to-peer currency, and as such don’t require a bank or other institution for transactions.

I’m glad the OED has made a point of recognizing contemporary language usage, no matter how banal some of it may seem. Time will eventually weed out the worthwhile words, and leave the rest by the wayside. At least I keep telling myself that.