It’s that time of year again? --already? No, I’m not talking about the daffodils blooming and the pollen counts and the school board elections. It’s time for the announcement from those fabulous people who brought us the Oxford English Dictionary! Yippee, new words added to the book that the experts credit with keeping us civilized. Wait—did I go too far? Yeah, well at least the OED, as the grown-ups call it, is considered the ultimate source authority on the English lexicon.
Now, please don’t make the unconscionable error of confusing the OED with the ODE, the Oxford Dictionary of English. The ODE people started their publication in 1998 to spell out, if you will (and you know you will), how language is used in everyday life. Last year their additions included such words as chillax and bromance.
Some of the more highly publicized additions to the OED for 2011 are not really even words, per se, but initialisms. I refer to LOL, OMG and FYI. You are reading a blog, so I will not insult your intelligence by spelling those out for you, so to speak. They join other initialisms such as IMHO, TMI and BFF, all of which were added in recent years. This year, the acronym wag was also added, and since I didn’t know what that meant, please don’t be offended by my mentioning that it stands for women and girlfriends. Wow. How did we get along without that as an official word till now?
All of which reminds me of some lunchroom talk a coworker shared with me many years ago. We were federal employees on the Presidio in San Francisco, and our lives were filled—FILLED, I tell you—with initialisms, acronyms and total alphabet soup. We worked under a CO (Commanding Officer), wrote DFs (Disposition Forms) on the R&D (Research and Development) or QA (Quality Assurance) within the DOD (Department of Defense.) We worried about RIFs (Reductions in Force), or what we now call downsizing. Do you see what I mean?
One day over lunch, my supervisor was telling some of us that he had been unloading all his job stress on his wife the night before—telling her about a meeting with the CO about R&D, an AFSCME meeting he had attended, and the DFs he’d written for the DOD. He was exhausted. Then he asked his wife about her day. “Well,” she said, “I used the MOP on the kitchen floor, took the KIDS to school, went to the A&P for FOOD, and took an NAP after lunch!” What a woman! She became our personal hero.