Newsletter August 2011
The advent of the words 'retweet' and 'woot' in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has been met with excitement, disdain and even philosophical debate.
Retweet, meaning "to pass on a message on Twitter", will be familiar to anyone who uses Twitter and probably most readers out there. Woot, or w00t as it is written, may not be as well known having originated in America, but it is an exclamation of triumph, success, happiness or excitement. The appearance of both of these words in the OED showcases the triumph and power of the net and the modern age.
For centuries, words or phrases seldom left small areas or even countries, however the ease of connection on a global scale sees words like w00t come to the fore across the world within weeks or months of its inception – such a thing would not be even fathomable 15 years ago. The social language of the net is the new language of the world on a global scale; both 'cyberbullying' (online bullying) and 'sexting' (the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs between mobile phones) also made their way into the dictionary for 2011, strengthening this ideology. There was and has always been criticism for the introduction of new words and phrases and these additions are no different. This is the nature of language, an ever-evolving thing.
The more important discussion perhaps is whether or not social media words will replace traditional ones in the years to come. Essentially social media is a new means of communication and so brings new things to the table. For example the invention and common use of the mobile telephone brought along a new context for words such as 'text', as did the word 'page' with the pager.
Social media is even more common and more accessible than any of those two examples and allows a wider network of creation. More people are plugged in to a number of platforms (such as Twitter and Facebook) that are interlinked, meaning more people and more ideas to be created and then taken up on a global scale. Words must take a grip and be likely to stay before they are even considered for dictionary entry – the increasing amount of social media and words and language emerging because of it will doubtlessly mean that there will be far more words created of a social media persuasion which will have more "grip" than parochial words. As a result the OED are far more likely to accept more social media words than ever before, but as for replacing traditional words in the OED? That may still be a long way away yet...