Moving forward - and backward - with the English language
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And, as the Global Village (and imported television) has made clear over the years, even in terms of terms in common use, there's more than just one English language even in terms of terms in common use. In fact, even the meaning of "a billion" can vary, depending on when and where you're standing when you say it. So for those colonials who are considering a visit to the land of the mother tongue, or are simply trying to enhance their BBC America viewing experience, The English-to-American Dictionary has definitions for a little under 600 British terms that might not be immediately familiar on this side of the pond. (E.g., you don't have to be in a street gang to be a fan of "bangers," you haven't just been struck in the face if you're "gobsmacked," "Pants" should not be seen in public, and "Pelican Crossings" do not refer to an anomaly in the behavior of British wildlife.) Wikipedia also offers a table-formatted list of words that have different meanings in the two locations.Skip to next paragraph
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If you're into linguistic rather than geographic origins, the Online Etymology Dictionary dates some modern terms as far back as 2,000 years - and provides pronunciation, provenances, and even a few clarifications. (Etymologically speaking, a "dialogue" can take place between any number of persons - there's no two-person limit.) And of course, the origins of some common words can be surprisingly recent, as the language keeps growing through such channels as popular culture ("D'oh!"), turning trademarks into nouns (Aspirin, Kleenex), shamelessly snatching words from other languages (we wouldn't have Star "Trek" without the Afrikaners), and through simple invention and evolution.
And into that last category bravely steps Merriam-Webster's Open Dictionary, which encourages visitors to nominate words and/or meanings not currently listed in the 'official' online corpus. Some submissions are attempts to add established but overlooked options to the collection ("bandwidth", as "...time and/or resources necessary to accomplish a task"), others to promote slang to the mainstream ("ginormous"), while still others appear to be unadulterated exercises in creativity ("snew" as the past tense of snow).
Naturally, all this - to employ a well-used cliché - merely scratches the surface. From favorite words, to suggestions for banishment, to lessons in Conversational Terrorism and so much more, the English language itself offers as many entertainments as the literary works created from it.
(Hy-per-bo-le: noun. A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect. )