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The OED welcomes idiocracy, alt-right, and an assload of crude language to its official lexicon

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  • Corinne Purtill
By Corinne Purtill

Reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Prepper, alt-right, nothingburger, and idiocracy are among the more than 1,400 new words, meanings, and phrases the Oxford English Dictionary has added in its most recent quarterly update.

The newest bonified (look it up) entries include obscure but enduring terms the dictionary’s lexicographers have deemed worthy of inclusion (welcome squeakiness and bedunged!) as well as relatively recent words that have left an indelible mark on the English language (hello, Butterbeer and CrossFit).The OED bills itself as the definitive record of the English language from which no words are ever deleted; future historians puzzled by references to d-bags, jabronis, or lumbersexuals in early 21st-century texts will now be able to find those definitions in the OED.

The OED’s word researchers are also constantly reviewing the dictionary to see if existing words have developed new definitions or variations that should be added to the entry. They don’t review every single word every quarter; rather, the work is done both thematically and alphabetically. For example, this quarter, OED lexicographers reviewed cinema- and film-related words, leading to the addition of DVD, Oscar, Nollywood, and Herzogian, among others. They also tackled the A and B section of the dictionary, which happens to contain four of the English language’s most creatively deployed nouns: ass, arse, bum, and butt. This particular turn of the OED research calendar has permanently installed butthurt, ass-kicking, bum-shuffle, and roughly two dozen other similarly colorful terms in the firmament of the English language.

“There was more puerile content in this entry than usual because [of those] four different words, all of which are very productive in English and have this scatological element to them,” says Katherine Martin, head of US dictionaries at Oxford University Press.

Linguist Ben Zimmer has posted the full list of the OED’s newest posterior-related terms on the blog Strong Language. Each OED entry also contains the word’s first known reference in an English text, providing us a 380-year record of butt references from “bum crack” in 1604 (a 17th-century euphemism for flatulence) to 1984’s “assless” (as in chaps).

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