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From 'Ew' to 'Transhumanism'

The latest updates to the Oxford English Dictionary The changing of the seasons means different things to different people: estimated tax payments for independent contractors, new beer for Sam Adams-swillers, and new blood for Keith Richards. For the lexically minded, there's a more significant seasonal..

The latest updates to the Oxford English Dictionary

The changing of the seasons means different things to different people: estimated tax payments for independent contractors, new beer for Sam Adams-swillers, and new blood for Keith Richards.For the lexically minded, there's a more significant seasonal event: the Oxford English Dictionary's quarterly updates to its enormous online edition. Since 2000, a slew of new words, meanings, and quotations have been added every March, June, September, and December. The last batch arrived just in time for Chrismukkah and the OED's eightieth birthday, making this ever-expanding record of the English language one of the liveliest octogenarians you'll ever meet.So gather round, trivia-lovers and word-lickers. In the spirit of my favorite sportswriter, Bill Simmons, I'm going to ramble about attention-grabbing items from the latest update. Don't be shy about taking notes. Studies show that these nuggets of nerdy knowledge will help you impress a teacher, write a poem, curse the gods, or lure a beautiful English major into your tent.• Ew-that reliable expression of disgust-feels ancient, but may only be as old as 1978. Spelling Nazis will shudder to learn it's been spelled euuw, euuww, euuwww, euw, euww, euwww, eww, and ewww. Where do I apply for a job collecting ew variations for the OED? Sadly, they left out my favorite: ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww.• Speaking of ew-itude, a manufacturing technology term-rancidification-was added, meaning "The process of becoming rancid; the oxidation of oils and fats which this involves." This word, which has been filling the technical journals since 1964, is down on its hands and oozy parts, begging to be used colloquially. I can hear it. Or is that sound the rancidification of my bathtub, where new worlds and civilizations are on the march?• There's a reason why Ammon Shea was able to read the whole OED without going profoundly cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs: even a brief visitor to OED-land comes across awesome words like rantankerous, a now-rare, primarily southern alteration of cantankerous, with a whiff of rancorous and a slice of rant.• I've never heard man, woman, child, or animated penguin use the word ranchy, but it's had two meanings: ranch-like (duh) and "Bawdy, sexually indecent; earthy, dirty" (ooh-la-la). This second sense is probably a variant of raunchy, and its first known use in 1959 is worth quoting: "There was an embarrassed pause at this; and then one of the bridesmaids remarked, ‘A bit ranchy, that.'" Since the OED is a historical dictionary, it includes example sentences as well as definitions, so it's not only the biggest dictionary in the world (with 263,917 entries and 741,153 meanings), but it's the hugest book of quotes too (with 2,931,547 quotations).• In my line of work, you have to be familiar with fembots and killbots, but this robo-word was new to me: cobot. It's "A computer-controlled robotic device designed to assist a person in performing a manual task." Sounds handy, and it got me looking at other co words. I kinda like co-angelical, meaning "associated with the angels", which sounds divine though a little unhealthy. Is associating with the angels like sleeping with the fishes?• Of all the euphemistic ways of referring to death, take a dirt nap isn't one of them. People have been taking dirt naps since Christ was a cream pie, but they've only been saying so since 1981, as far as the OED knows. Bonus linguistic terminology alert: dirt nap is a dysphemism, the euphemism's honest-to-a-fault sibling.• Lest you think I only notice the slangy, sleazy, skeezy entries-like skeeze and skeezer, also recently added-here's a more elevated term: transhumanism. It means, "A belief that the human race can evolve beyond its current limitations, esp. by the use of science and technology." I'll return to this topic in a future column, when I've evolved enough to appreciate it.• An addition to dude acknowledges that, like guy, this popular word is being used to refer to women as well as men. Here's that gender-inclusive meaning demonstrated in 1981: "We're not talking about a lame chick and a gnarly guy. We're talking about a couple of far-out dudes." I don't know how an entry on dude can omit the word Lebowski, but when I'm in charge of the OED, such atrocities shall be avenged.• The attention-consuming culprits known as time sucks have probably existed since cave-people first got absorbed by provocative cave paintings and thrilling dinosaur-egg hunts. Looks like we've only been writing about time sucks since 1991 though.For a real time suck, see if your library or wealthy benefactor can get you access to the OED online. Other recently added entries include brewski, fake-out, frenemy, IED, metaverse, MILF, neurotypical, pimped-out, podcast, and schwag, plus many others.Your productivity will shrink, but that's a small price to pay for the visions of rantankerous rancidification and co-angelical co-bots dancing in your head.Image from, where they're celebrating the dictionary's 80th birthday.

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