GOOD

The World's Biggest Word Book Grows Again

Anyhoo... The latest additions to the Oxford English Dictionary are a mixed bag. Many of us welcome autumn for bringing...



Anyhoo... The latest additions to the Oxford English Dictionary are a mixed bag.


Many of us welcome autumn for bringing gorgeous weather, Octoberfest beers, and the merciful resumption of football.

But for a small number of your fellow citizens, fall brings another blessed event, one that is no less heaven-sent because it occurs every season: the Oxford English Dictionary online hauls out a host of new entries, as the largest word book in the world gets even larger.

As always, the additions are a mixed bag, a bag commodious enough to include words diverse as "dot-org," "globalist," "hand relief," "red state," "three-way," and "unmixed blessing," plus many others, along with a beefing up of major entries such as "clone," "drug," and "thought."

The OED-started in 1857 and digitally updated since 2000-is a historical dictionary, which means it includes example sentences over a wide period of time. This makes it so much more useful than most other word books, since you can actually see the word in action. It's like learning about frogs by watching them hop around a pond instead of dead on a desk in high school bio class.

So please enjoy this sample platter of linguistic nuggets and lexical enchiladas from the latest revisions, which are only a week old. As always, these facts should dazzle that English grad student you've been drooling over in the coffee shop, and maybe they'll even invite you over for a cozy night of citing on the couch.

• Twitter is on everyone's mind and handheld device these days, but the word "twitterpated" has zip to do with it, and its recent entry is a coincidence. Two meanings-"Love-struck, besotted. Also: thrilled, excited; obsessed" and "Foolish, silly; flighty, scatterbrained"-date from the 1940's, launched by the 1942 Bambi movie.

• Who says having your nose in a digital library all day can't lead to a greater appreciation for nature? Since the additions also covered extensive revisions from "red" to "refulgent," subentries were added for the red-kneed tarantula, red-chested cuckoo, red-backed salamander, red-legged locust, red-lipped snake, and red-rumped parakeet. In related news, the red-handed howler monkey is now on my list of awesomely named animals that are a little impolite, along with the goliath bird-eating spider, naked mole rat, and giant spitting earthworm.

• My rare-word itch was well-scratched by "thinking mug"-a term labeled slang, obscure, and rare-for the head, with only one recorded use in 1849: "Bout four years ago, it came into my thinking mug that there must be plenty of gold in the bed of Coosa creek."

• The recency illusion, as coined by University of Stanford linguist Arnold Zwicky, is the tendency to think "Whoa, that's new to me. It must be new to the world!" I had a little bout of the recency illusion with the word "thoughty," which has meant "thoughtful" for centuries, as here in 1702: "A minister should be a very thoughty man." This is similar to how 19th-century uses of "truthiness" meant truthful, as opposed to today's Colbertian truthiness, which encompasses many types of BS such as "globaloney," another new entry. That one goes back to 1943: "Much of what Mr. Wallace calls his global thinking is, no matter how you slice it, still ‘globaloney'."

• Regular readers know I'm entranced by suffix mayhem, such as the promiscuous ways of "-gate" and "-istan." So I was happy to see the suffix "-think"-as in groupthink and doublethink-get its own entry. A 1984 quote has my favorite example ("This is yet another example of ninny-think.") though I hope to someday be known as the founder and seminal contributor to doofus-think.

• You're probably familiar with the common sense of "batsh*t," even if batsh*t insanity doesn't flow through the branches of your family tree (not that I would know anything about that). But an almost opposite meaning exists in Australia, perhaps due to blander bat diets: "My personal life is the same as anyone else's and it's as boring as batsh*t to read about."

• Of course, capturing the world in words isn't all red-handed monkeys and thoughty twitterpations: ugly reality intrudes, this time in the form of the mega-successful word "waterboarding." The first known use is as recent as 2004; minus the "ing," the term is older: "Upon capture the ‘POWs' are roughed up and given their first taste of the dread water board: they are strapped head down onto an inclined board, with a towel placed over their faces and cold water poured onto it. They choke, gag, retch and gurgle" (1976).

• Also dating from 1976 is the basketball and general-purpose insult "in your face!" Speaking of faces, the first face-plant was probably done by a clumsy cave-dude, but we've only been talking about "doing a face plant" since the eighties.

• "Anyhoo" is a word I enjoy using, and it turns out I'm using it "right," which to dictionary-makers just means in the most common way: "used (humorously) to indicate a change of topic, or a return to a previous topic after a digression." I was surprised to learn that it was originally a regional pronunciation of "anyhow" and disappointed to learn that variations "anyhoozle" and "anyhoodle" didn't make the cut (yet).

Anyhoo, I could go on till 2012, or even the apocalypse after that: there's no end to this stuff. People sometimes wonder if I feel bad not knowing another language, and I don't. I feel like I barely know one language. The OED will give you that feeling, in the best way possible.

Articles
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
Ottawa Humane Society / Flickr

The Trump Administration won't be remembered for being kind to animals.

In 2018, it launched a new effort to reinstate cruel hunting practices in Alaska that had been outlawed under Obama. Hunters will be able to shoot hibernating bear cubs, murder wolf and coyote cubs while in their dens, and use dogs to hunt black bears.

Efforts to end animal cruelty by the USDA have been curtailed as well. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the USDA issued 4,944 animal welfare citations, in two years the numbers dropped to just 1,716.

Keep Reading Show less
Science