Sunday, May 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

Our Changing Language

Mansplaining and hangry, acorn and buttercup – words that made the news for different reasons.

The new list of words joining the dictionary in January 2018 has been revealed. Several times a year, new words are added to the Oxford English Dictionary, words that have already become integrated into our society. This January, the BBC has reported that over 1,000 words have been added. Mansplaining and hangry are just two of these, both originating online.

An article from The Guardian by Alison Flood reported that ‘Mumsnet’ was asked for advice when compiling the new list of words. Our language is increasingly drawn from technology – words used on the internet and on texts. Remember the introduction of selfie? The new list includes e-sport and e-liquid, once again words related to technology. Among the new 2018 list is a section of sub-entries, including numerous abbreviations. Over time, these have slowly become normalised. But in cutting words short, language has begun to lose its deeper meaning.

On the other side of this is the debate surrounding the absence of many nature related words in the junior dictionary. A recent petition, created by Mr Jackson, has acquired over 50,000 signatures in an attempt to stand against this. In 2015, the removal of nature related words sparked debate from authors such as Margaret Atwood and Michael Morpurgo. An article published in The Guardian at the time stated that they, amongst other authors, called the loss of nature words “shocking and poorly considered.”

Have you ever used the words acorn and buttercup? The answer is probably yes. Whilst most children learn words through their surroundings rather than by reading a dictionary, the cuts suggest something about modern society. Over the years, there has been a decline in the number of children spending time out of doors. Through excluding many nature related words from the junior dictionary, this relationship with the natural world may decline even further. If the words are made less significant, then children’s perceptions of the natural world will gradually change. This in turn may affect the future of our environment.

Acorn and buttercup – two words not included in the junior dictionary. While these are dismissed, others such as blog remain. Nature versus technology – this seems to be the debate surrounding our language. Our society has become more insular, more closely connected to technological advancement. Although the new words are part of this, language has always developed and merely reflects our time. The greater danger lies with removing words that are still relevant to our world. It’s up to us to look beyond technology in order to build a positive future for our language.