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Jewish World Review Sept. 26, 2003 / 29 Elul, 5763

Robert L. Haught

Robert L. Haught
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No need to be at a loss for words | Now I'm no expert on new words. Call me a "muppet," but I have enough trouble learning how to use the old ones.

"Muppet" is one of 3,000 words and expressions that have been added to the Oxford Dictionary of English, which is recognized (at least by the publishers) as the authoritative source of what's new in the language world. Taken from the children's TV show, "Sesame Street," "muppet" means "an incompetent or foolish person," according to the dictionary.

The Oxford researchers claim they spend hours reading newspapers (including the comics), novels, TV scripts, scholarly journals and the Internet in a systematic search to find new words and new uses of existing words. They insist that only a small portion make it into the dictionary. "Our strict rules for inclusion ensure that only the most important words are selected," says the official announcement.

The dictionary compilers must watch American TV a lot. Another addition to their most recent edition is "bada bing" -- from the award-winning show, "The Sopranos." And here I thought that word combination was as old as vaudeville. Or was that "bada boom"?

Bear in mind that the Oxford list is compiled by the Brits, and that many slang or foreign words are included. For example, "bling bling" is not the sound that comes from a "smart phone." It's a reference to elaborate jewelry and clothing. And you can call your mate a "dou dou," but you'd better quickly explain that it's a West Indian term of endearment.

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If you own a digital camera, it's now a "digicam." And if you have a "bad hair day" you can blame it on being on the go "24- 7," or trying to get ready for a "bakeoff." (It's amazing how long it takes these common terms to make their way across the Atlantic.)

Here are a few other newly sanctioned words to work into your next coffee break conversation:

"Egosurfing" -- searching the Internet for references to yourself.

"Sic bo" -- a Chinese game of dice.

"Shotgun cloning" -- the insertion of random fragments of DNA.

"Blipverts" -- subliminal TV ads of just a few seconds duration.

"Prairie dogging" -- describing workers in cubicles who raise their heads above the partitions surrounding their desks to see what is going on.

"Phreaking" -- "hacking" into phone systems for free calls.

As for the definitions of "cantopop," "shovelware," "pathogenicity islands," "turntablists," "terminator genes" and "bootylicious popstrels," you'll have to get the Oxford University Press to send you its 20- volume set. It sells for $2,862.

I think I'll stick to my old dog- eared Webster's.

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JWR contributor Robert L. Haught is a columnist for The Oklahoman. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2003, Robert L. Haught