Recycling My Last Post

I’m told that my last post, Time to Recycle the English Language, did not come across at all as I intended. Indeed, the complete lack of response was telling. It was a joke, people! But I guess I did a lousy job of making that obvious, and I’ve been so embarrassed at my failure that I haven’t dared to opine to this tough audience again. Until now.

Because I discovered something that makes me think maybe it wasn’t a joking matter after all. Merriam-Webster has confessed that they do remove words from the dictionary! My idea wasn’t so far-fetched.

If you use m-w.com to look up words, then you’re familiar with the annoying if not informative talking head editors in the video clips called “Ask the Editor.” (You know – the ones that make the page take so long to load…) In each of these spots, one of Merriam-Webster’s editors expounds on some topic related to words, their usage, their history, and all sorts of obscure facts about them.

Recently, I caught Peter Sokolowski, M-W Editor-at-Large, in a piece titled, “Why Words Get Cut from the Dictionary.” What was that? You mean, uh, I was right? He began by saying, “What happened to snollygoster, hodad, frutescent, and more?” and went on to say, “To make room for new words, some obsolete words need to be removed.” (I told you we were running out of space in the English vocabulary!)

He gave the following reasons for “cutting” a word: “the thing a word names has long ceased to be used” (especially in the case of nouns) “or the word itself has become dated.” (Didn’t I tell you that “thrice” was useless?)

He continued, “Most words that are dropped are scientific or technical terms.” (Hm, scientists have been known to make up a new word for the original made-up term.) “Terms made up of two or more words are especially vulnerable.” (keypunch?)

But “thee and thou remain because Shakespeare and the Bible are still a part of our current linguistic culture.” Sigh. I guess that means thrice has also been saved from the editor’s sword. Well, snollygoster!

 

P.S. It appears that M-W has also removed, cut, deleted, archived the video upon which I sought to save face here. I promise, I did not make this up! But now, you probably think this post is the real joke…

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