Time to Recycle the English Language

According to a May 19, 2014 article in Time magazine, Merriam-Webster “revealed 150 new words that will be added to its collegiate dictionary this year, ranging from ‘hashtag’ and ‘catfish’ to ‘dubstep’ and ‘crowdfunding,’ most of which speak to some intersection of pop culture, technology and the Internet.”

Never mind my personal opinion as to the usefulness of these new words, I wonder, can our collective vocabulary handle any more “new” words? Do we really need more words?! Do we not have enough already with which to express ourselves? Can we not communicate clearly and intelligently with all the words we already have?

I fear that our English language vocabulary is the ultimate representation of text bloat. It conjures up images of “The Blob” that never stops growing and consumes all of us in its insidious infiltration of our culture. We cannot stop it nor run from it.

Yeah, I guess we don’t have any choice about the constant ooze of new words into our language given that “pop culture, technology, and the Internet” will continue to intersect and branch and morph. So what’s to be done? How are we to cope without being overrun by our own verbosity?

I have a solution, radical though it may be. I propose that we declare the ~1.5 million entries now contained in Merriam-Webster Unabridged as critical mass. That should be adequate, don’t you think?

But because the populace—not just the word nerds among us—will not be happy if they are no longer allowed to make up words because they don’t know how to use the ones they already have, my plan is this. For every batch of new words that M-W gives credence to, they must reduce the lexicon by the same number of words.

Think about it. We must contain the blob. But we will use a measured, systematic approach. Just as M-W accepts for consideration submissions of new words from the masses (“user-submitted words”), M-W will also accept nominations for words to be removed from the dictionary. I mean, can’t you think of a number of words that you haven’t thought of in years? When was the last time you used or heard the word “thrice” for example? Indeed it seems pretty useless these days. I’ll go first. I nominate “thrice” for deletion!

But sure as the word disappears silently, someone will go looking for it and raise a stink because they can’t find it. So in my plan, I propose an interim phase before words are collectively forgotten for good. Let’s archive them first. We move the nominated and M-W approved words subject to deletion to an Archive folder for a specified period while we get used to the idea of speaking, writing, and composing poetry without them. In Blob terms, we put them on ice, which proved to be the only way to stop the menace. This also provides saving grace just in case we change our minds about a particular word we just can’t part with. However, everyone knows that once you put something in Archive, you can never find it again anyway.

So as agreed, when the archive period is up, the words will be unceremoniously swept into the Recycle Bin by a process that runs during the night. I’m guessing we won’t miss them at all. We’ll just make up new ones.

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