Some of the Best New Additions to the Oxford English Dictionary

Photo: iStock

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:

Photo: Wiki Commons
Photo: Wiki Commons

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?

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Hegemonicon ­– The OED defines this as a ruling or governing power, specifically human reason. The word also means the supreme power in the universe. It derives from the Greek hêgemonikon or ruler of the soul. The Stoics purported that the center of the soul was in the chest, not the head, and that babies’ first functioning organ while in utero was the heart.

Hongkonger, Hongkongese ­– Residents of the southern China city approve of this noun and adjective, and disapprove of heavy tourism and an assumed grouping of Hongkongers with the rest of Mainland China.

Photo: Wiki Commons
Photo: Wiki Commons

Abraham de Moivre – This mathematician lived to be 87, a long time for someone born in the 17th century. De Moivre’s theorem deals with the powers and roots of complex numbers. As a young man, de Moivre did jail time for being Protestant. He’s also known for having clarified the concept of probability. He was so respected by Sir Isaac Newton that Newton sometimes sent students his way for enlightenment. Despite his accomplishments, de Moivre was never financially well off. When he began sleeping 15 minutes more each day in his eighties, he conjectured about the date of his death...and was accurate.

HBCU ­– Historically Black College or University. Howard and Spellman are popular names, but Cheyney University, founded in 1837, is considered the first HBCU. Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles is an HBGI (Historically Black Graduate Institute).

Bookaholic ­–The addition of this word might come as a surprise, given that more and more people read virtual books as opposed to those with paper pages. The phrase avid reader works just as well.

BYOD ­­– Bring your own electronic device (to a meeting). If you hate it when people look over your shoulder, the inclusion of this acronym should make you happy. If it’s a business lunch, you may also want to bring your own drink. And always bring your own date to a wedding. If none available, bring your electronic device to find one.

So far, BYOD doesn’t seem associated with vaping, the gerund form of the OED 2014 Word of the Year: vape. As in, to inhale and exhale vapor from an E-cigarette or other device.

tumblr_m34fq4vhom1qjclfoBooyah – Since I’ve already over-sampled B’s, lets turn to a word that hasn’t yet made it into the OED. The late ESPN sports anchor Stuart Scott has popularized this synonym for “horray” or “woot”. Booyah is also a thick chicken soup made in the Midwest. If you listen carefully to its pronunciation, you might almost hear the French word bouillon. There are bullion coins and bouillon cubes. Depending on what you’re into, both might make you jump up and say booyah.

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