More than 50 abbreviations and informal terms (i.e. digitally spawned) are being added to the online Oxford Dictionaries, and it has left me, someone raising a future speaker of formal English, shaking my head. Or, perhaps I should say “SMH” as a dictionary user.
Dictionaries have been adding words to their pages, virtual or otherwise, since they were published centuries ago. However, the competition seems to have heated up, with Rolling Stone citing Oxford’s updates as rivaling Merriam-Webster’s additions of “selfie,” “tweep,” and “hashtag” in early 2014.
The list of new terms, including “binge-watch” (watch multiple episodes of a single television show), “amazeballs” (extremely good or impressive), and “cotch” (to spend time relaxing) are largely slang, and inspired by online communications and other shorthand found in notes like text messages. It was announced in a blog post on the oxforddictionaries.com blog, featuring images to accompany some of the terms.
I have mixed feelings about the additions. On one hand, I do appreciate feeling slightly more connected to the college students who live down the street. Plus, I dislike looking up slang terms on urbandictionary.com, usually because many are accompanied by vulgar, cringe-worthy definitions.
However, as a mom who narrates most of my mundane daily activities for the sake of a toddler just learning to speak, I don’t want him anywhere near these new terms, at least not for some time to come. I personally don’t think anyone should be allowed to devolve into slang and shorthand abbreviations until they've actually mastered the English language first.
Earlier this spring, I underwent a month-long challenge to dispose of emoticons, shorthand, and exclamation points in my digital communications. Too often, I found that my checking in on a friend via text message made me sound like a middle-school cheerleader. “Give me a hi! Give me a ho! Tell me what you’re up to! I’d like to know! LOL!” Capped off with a winking smiley.
The practice had also dribbled into my professional communications as well, with emails steadily shrinking in favor of shorter notes with exclamations serving as proof that I was not delivering an order or criticism, but instead making a really, really, really friendly suggestion that I hope you might accept.
It took less than a week for one co-worker to check in on me, concerned that I was feeling down. I had to assure her that I was feeling great and testing myself to see if I could communicate in complete sentences (sans emoticons). Other friends teased me, responding to text messages with five emoticons followed up seven exclamation points, as if in some way to cover my quota of the universal count of useless characters to replace real language.
Like some kind of junk food cleanse to clean up bad eating habits, this challenge did the same for my writing. I did see a difference, and I came to appreciate writing even the shortest notes more, taking a few extra seconds to craft each, which also helped me to remember what I was actually saying to people.
Now, a few months after challenging myself to use proper English, I do find myself throwing in an exclamation point here and there, as well as the occasional LOL, and perhaps I might even pull a term or two from this list to toss into conversations. I've been known to throw out an "amazeballs" or two, despite my increasingly nerdy mom habits.
That said, I won’t be telling my totes adorbs son that he’s cray cray for being so bare energetic, or that I hope he grows into a hench. (Excuse me for a moment, I am heading back to the Oxford dictionary to make sure I even wrote that sentence correctly).