OMG! Online Idioms Make the Oxford Dictionary

by Cecilia Gonzales, age 16

OMG! New expressions are being added to the dictionary!

The OED (Oxford English Dictionary) has approved adding terms like OMG (Oh My God), LOL (Laugh Out Loud), and BFF (Best Friend Forever), to its latest edition. But in order for these new words to be added, they must be incorporated into everyday use, says Graeme Diamond, the OED’s principal editor for new words.

“The OED is quite cautious,” says Diamond, since there are 300,000 words in the English dictionary, and if any are not used in everyday conversation, they will not be added.

It may seem that the use of these expressions is recent, but surprisingly some are not. A British admiral first used “OMG” in a letter in 1917, almost 100 years ago. Now when people use terms like “OMG” they might not realize they have a longer history than we imagine.

The Oxford English Dictionary also has an Internet version, which was launched in 2000. It gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers. It has been updated to include new words such as “Muffin Top,” a protuberance of flesh above the waistband of a tight pair of trousers, and “Meep,” a short, high-pitched sound famously uttered by the Road Runner cartoon character. Both expressions made the cut and now are added to the dictionary.

Many well-known words like “heart” now have more than just one definition. For example, “heart” as a verb now means, “to love” as shown on many t-shirts with slogans like “I (heart) New York.”

“People now talk about hearting things left, right and center,” says Fiona McPherson, another editor. She also states that people began to see the symbol more for what it was than what it meant.

Online idioms are used everywhere. They appear in texts and emails today. But are much older, even appearing in hand-written letters from the early 1900’s.

Users of online idioms say that these phrases make texting easier, allowing us to use fewer characters in a message. Many people debate whether or not to use online idioms. Even though they have been helpful, throughout time this could be problematic. This habit could become engraved in people’s minds and we may even begin seeing them in important papers.

OMG, then we would really be in trouble!

[Sources: Associated Press; Wisconsin State Journal]