New words: December 2011

Compound Interest

In describing the history and development of a word, the importance of noun compounds – those combinations of two words commonly occurring together forming a noun phrase – are often overlooked. But a glance at the new compounds added during the course of revision of the OED can illuminate the language and preoccupations of the 20th and 21st centuries just as effectively as looking at the new senses which have arisen in this period. Below are some examples of this phenomenon from the latest quarterly release.

No compounds at all were recorded for abuse n. in the first and second editions of the OED. Familiar contemporary concerns about physical, emotional, or sexual abuse have generated many new compounds in recent years: for example, abuse allegation, abuse case, abuse counselling, abuse scandal, and abuse victim all date from the 20th century, when the open discussion of such abuse became more commonplace.

In terms of its meaning, advertising n. has changed little from the time of its first publication in 1884: its core senses are still to do with announcing or publicizing in a public medium. However, the frequency and variety of uses of the word in attributive use exploded alongside the establishment of advertising as a fully-fledged industry; in the newly revised entry advertising billboard, advertising executive, advertising industry, advertising jingle, advertising slogan, and advertising strategy, and many other compounds, all appear in the OED for the first time. It’s interesting to note that while these compounds became increasingly common during the course of the 20th century, many make their first appearance in the 19th century, as the systematic placing of advertisements in order to drive sales of a product became more and more widespread.

By comparison, compounds based on the word access, n. are more varied, but none the less provide insight into the usage and context of this word in recent times. We chart uses relating to time spent with a child by a non-custodial parent (‘access order’, ‘access visit’, and so on; first recorded in 1947), as well as courses enabling those without traditional qualifications to become eligible for higher education (‘access course’, ‘access scheme’, ‘access student’, etc.; first used 1979), while elsewhere among the compounds the use of the noun in computing and other technological spheres is reflected: access code (1955), access provider (1983), access time (1948).

Also appearing

Of course, the addition of new material to the OED does not only involve fleshing out the history of familiar words by showing their patterns of combination. Among the 1,200 other words and meanings new to the OED in this release are:

bibimbap, n. In Korean cookery: a dish consisting of rice topped with other ingredients, typically including sautéed vegetables, meat (especially beef), and chilli paste, often with the addition of a raw or fried egg. [First recorded in 1977]

cruise, v. Of an infant: To walk while holding on to furniture or other stationary objects for stability, prior to learning to do so without support. [1928]

to be cruising for a bruising at cruise, v. To be following a course of action likely to result in one’s being beaten or injured; (more generally) to be looking for or inviting trouble. Frequently as a threat or warning. [1945]

earworm, n. A catchy tune or piece of music which persistently stays in a person’s mind, esp. to the point of irritation. [1991; earlier senses, meaning ‘an earwig’ and ‘a counsellor who gives advice in secret’ date to 1598 and before 1670 respectively]

over-accessorized adj. Chiefly Fashion.Having too many accessories, provided with accessories which are too ostentatious; characterized by overuse of accessories. [1920; 10 years earlier than accessorized adj. used on its own, perhaps reflecting that accessories were a target of criticism before they were of praise]

zero emission n. (also zero emissions) Emission of no or very few pollutants; frequently attributive or as adjective, especially in zero-emission vehicle. [1971] Graeme Diamond, Principal Editor, New Words, Oxford English Dictionary