Thursday evening, the esteemed Oxford English Dictionary (OED) admitted three new “words” into its hallowed hardcover: “LOL,” “OMG” and “<3.” Yes, apparently <3 is now a word.
There are no words, OED approved or otherwise, that could begin to describe the absolute horror that rippled through our office when this news was discovered. After all, as students who spend the great majority of our time piecing together words in an effort to relay the news, any language-based decisions hit us close to home.
The reasons the OED’s decision is ghastly are numerous. First, not one of the three newly admitted “words” are, in fact, words, according to the OED’s own definition of a word as a “ speech, utterance [or] verbal expression.”
While “OMG” may be making its way into the audible vernacular, when was the last time you heard someone say “LOL”?
The admission of “<3” is another issue altogether, because not only is “<3” impossible to say, it is a concept that, when written out, doesn’t even include letters.
There is, of course the slight chance that the OED added these words in an attempt to be “hip” (and yes, we do mean hip, because that is how out of touch the dictionary must be). But let’s be real, OED, that’s just not the role you are meant to play.
The OED is meant to be the premier example of what the best of the English language is. It was founded in 1857, which in Internet years means it’s been around FOREVER. It is a dinosaur. And while dinosaurs are certainly good for some things, like eating other dinosaurs and making sure you use words that actually exist, they certainly are not good at being cool—the OED has a type of comma named after it, for heaven’s sake.
The OED including these three Internet-born quasi-words is like The New York Times using emoticons in its headlines. It is like bouncers at bars letting in everyone without checking their ID. It is like Harvard admitting preschoolers.
So do yourself a favor, OED, stick to what you know and STFU.
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