Chambers Dictionary adds ‘totes’ and ‘peeps’

Living language: Should new words be welcomed into our lexicon or dismissed as frivolous?

The latest edition of Chambers Dictionary includes over 1,000 new entries and updates, revealing much about modern society. But are these recent additions alarming or ‘totes’ amazing?

YOLO’, ‘bitcoin’ and ‘totes’ – three examples of why a copy of the newly updated Chambers Dictionary might just come in handy. This week, the 13th edition of the tome is published and over 1,000 new words and updates have been added to reflect the economic, social and cultural upheavals of our time.

First published in 1872, the dictionary now contains new definitions that would have astounded its founders. And, for the first time, members of the public were invited to suggest words that should feature.

The most prominent additions relate to changing attitudes towards relationships. Following the legalisation of same-sex marriage earlier this year, the dictionary has now made its definition of marriage gender-neutral. The new description reads: ‘the ceremony, act or contract by which two people become married to each other.’ Previously the definition read: ‘the state or relationship of being husband and wife.’

New modern-day tribes are also listed. Among them are ‘hipsters’, ‘bridezillas’ (a bride-to-be whose demanding behaviour in planning her wedding is regarded as monstrous) and ‘Whovians’ (fans of the television programme ‘Dr Who’).

Bedroom tax’, and ‘food banks’ have been included, to reflect some of the most talked about and controversial aspects of government policy today. While ‘Twitterati’, ‘frape’ and ‘cyberbully’ give some indication of the issues currently affecting the internet.

Over the centuries, wars over the words we use have occasionally erupted. New words did not bother Shakespeare, who is widely credited with introducing over 1,700 of them to the English language; among them ‘excellent’, ‘obscene’ and ‘majestic’. And he also gave new senses to existing words.

But others have expressed alarm over what they perceive to be the decay of the English language. In the 18th century, Jonathan Swift, author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, and other influential figures argued that language should be fixed forever and protected from the ravages of fashion and trends. More recently, Stephen Fry complained that the abbreviation CCTV is a ‘bland, clumsy, rhythmically null and phonically forgettable word.’

Word perfect

Words such as ‘peeps’ and ‘totes’ do not belong in our shared language, some argue, because they demean and cheapen our rich linguistic heritage. As George Orwell once wrote: ‘the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.’

But others believe that the English language is constantly evolving which shows that we are adopting new values and cultural norms and progressing as a society. Besides, newly invented words, quirks and eccentricities are all part of the glory of the English language.

You Decide

  1. Which of the new words do you approve of and which are you less keen on?
  2. Should the English language be fixed or flexible?

Activities

  1. Young people usually drive linguistic change. In groups, come up with some other examples of modern words and expressions that you think should be included in the dictionary.
  2. Invent a new word to explain a modern-day phenomenon or trend.

Some People Say...

“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.’George Orwell, ‘1984”

What do you think?

Q & A

Great! This means I can talk about my ‘peeps’ all I want!
Not so fast. In some formal situations such as work environments, colloquial words like ‘peeps’ or ‘totes’ would be deemed unsuitable and inappropriate. Potential employers might not even understand what you are talking about. While the evolution of language is fascinating, many professions will not tolerate abbreviated words and slang in everyday conversations.
Where do all these new words come from?
You! Young people are the main drivers of linguistic change. Many new words are also invented to explain the seismic changes that are occurring online, such as the growth of Twitter. In fact, a quarter of the new entries in Chambers Dictionary relate to internet culture and technology.

Word Watch

YOLO
The phrase was coined by the Canadian hip hop artist, Drake, and stands for ‘you only live once’.
Bitcoin
A digital currency which is not administered by any country’s central bank.
Totes
A shorter form of the word totally.
Chambers Dictionary
Chambers Dictionary includes many more unconventional words than its rivals and has long been known for its humorous definitions, such as that of eclair: ‘a cake long in shape but short in duration’.
Same-sex marriage
Although there have been civil partnerships since 2005 in the UK, the law allowing same-sex couples to get married, in equality with heterosexual couples, came into effect in March this year.
Bedroom tax
A financial penalty imposed on tenants if a property supplied by a local authority contains more rooms than is merited by the size of the household.
Food banks
Set up by charities to dispense free food to the needy.
Jonathan Swift
Swift outlined his complaints in a public letter to Robert Harley, the leader of the government. He wanted to create an institution similar to the ‘Académie Française’, which had been regulating French since 1634.

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