Oxford dictionary shuns not so "faboosh" words

Mon Aug 9, 2010 12:55pm EDT
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By Isabel Coles

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Are you a tanorexic partial to a bit of flashpacking, but hate your cankles?

If you're not lost for words already then you are either ahead of the linguistic curve or privy to the secrets of a little-known vault at the Oxford University Press.

There, filed away and stored alphabetically on small white cards are the words submitted to but deemed unsuitable for inclusion in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The thousands of words denied a place in the dictionary, which describes itself as the definitive record of the English language, are consigned to the vault because they are either too odd or have not gained enough currency in common usage.

"They are simply words that we have not included in our dictionary up until this point because we have not yet seen sufficient evidence of their usage," Fiona Mooring, senior assistant editor of the OED's new words group told Reuters in an e-mail.

"Tanorexia," an obsession with getting a tan, "flashpacking," glamorous backpacking, and "cankles," thick ankles are just three of the quirky words on record in the non-word vault.

A new word is not included in the OED unless it has "caught on." To make the cut, there must be several independent examples of the word in writing over a "reasonable" length of time.

"The exact time-span and number of examples may vary: for instance, one word may be included on the evidence of only a few examples, spread out over a long period of time, while another may gather momentum very quickly," said Mooring.   Continued...