The Oxford English Dictionary has a long history of accepting new information on the English language from the public. Back in 1857, American Civil War veteran W.C. Minor wrote in to submit words. When Editor James Murray tried to honor him for his contribution to the lexicography, he discovered Minor was institutionalized (for more on this, read The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester).
To this day, even though online subscriptions can be expensive and many U.S. libraries don’t carry the latest version, the OED has kept its arms open to the reading public. Suggested new words, along with etymological and dating evidence, are made available to the Dictionary’s editors, who then choose what goes to print.
The OED is updated four times a year: March, June, September and December. Here are some highlights from 2014:
Bee orchid – This type of orchid has evolved to take the shape of a female bee, even emitting the associated fragrance. The plant often self-pollinates, but, where the orchid exists near the Mediterranean Sea, a male bee does the job. Fooled by the flower’s shape, the bee will try to mate with the plant. He gains no offspring and, since he unwittingly pollinates the next flower over, the orchid, in full cahoots with Darwin, perpetuates her species. You can find the bee orchid in central and southern Europe, as well as in North Africa and the Middle East.
Death Penny – When placed with a buried corpse, the death penny is supposed to help pay the ferryman to the afterlife. There is the lucky-penny adage and the old practice of putting pennies on the deceased’s eyes, but given that current-day pennies (and nickels) are more expensive to produce than their monetary value, the departed should be buried with an eye mask of at minimum two dimes, right?