New words: March 2012

English busts loose

This quarterly release of OED Online is notable for the sheer variety of revised entries it makes available, a fact reflected in the items which appear now in the OED for the first time.

All the time in the world

Time is the most frequently used noun in English (see, and this release presents a comprehensive revision of the entry for this linguistic colossus. Much of the added material here indicates that a general sense of time as a valuable commodity (of which there often isn’t enough) has been a preoccupation of English-speakers throughout history, as demonstrated by the phrases no time to lose (first attested 1603), time’s up (1673), time’s a-wasting (1884), and compounds such as time constraint (1956), time pressure (1879), time-critical (1955), and time-starved (1894).

But it’s not all constraints and pressures: we have also added new senses dealing with things such as time as a medium through which one might travel (using a time machine, time warp, or similar), and the attitude to timekeeping associated with particular types of people (often with depreciative or humorous reference to certain nationalities), usually implying a somewhat relaxed, haphazard, or unreliable approach to punctuality.

Data security

There is much new material in the entry for data n. and the words deriving from it, reflecting its increased prominence in a period characterized by the digital storage, manipulation, and transmission of information. Some of these, such as data trail and dataveillance n., highlight a modern concern with who might have access to personal or financial information which is stored electronically, and the worries about what they do with it. The field of information technology also brings us geotagging n., the attachment of metadata assigning a geographical location to a digital photograph or other item of digital content; interestingly this has sometimes also raised privacy concerns, with people unintentionally making the exact location of their homes publicly available on the Internet by posting a geotagged photo.

Engines and railways

Another type of technology has given rise to new senses of the word hybrid, as both an adjective and a noun, referring to road vehicles which utilize two distinct sources of power, most commonly having both an internal-combustion engine and an electric motor. In the course of researching these senses, earlier evidence came to light referring to a different type of hybrid vehicle: one able to run both on the road and on railway tracks. This earlier sense, perhaps sadly, began to die out in the 1950s as the familiar modern sense took over.

The land of Soz

The release also encompasses different varieties of English. British slang gives us soz adj. for ‘sorry’, imitating the type of shortening found in familiar names like ‘Baz’ for Barry or ‘Shaz’ for Sharon. From Australia comes boofy adj., describing big, strong men who perhaps aren’t the brightest, and alongside it bouffy adj., used of bouffant hair or puffed out sleeves on a garment, and sometimes, particularly in Australia, spelt identically as ‘boofy’. More exotically still, we have yakisoba n., a Japanese dish of fried wheat-flour noodles, seeing enough clear usage as an English word to merit inclusion in the dictionary. New material in bust v.2 testifies to the bewildering array of things that might be busted in contemporary American slang: caps, humps, suds, moves, and rhymes are all the recipients of busting, as detailed in the Phrases section of the revised OED entry.

Also appearing

Among the 1700 other words and meanings new to the OED in this release are:

arachnodactyly n. The condition of having unusually long and slender fingers and hands. [First recorded in 1920]

bit bucket n. A notional location in which lost or discarded data is said to be collected. [1964]

CCS at C n. Carbon capture and storage, a means of capturing carbon dioxide and storing it away from the atmosphere, with the aim of mitigating the effects of global warming. [2003]

histrionics n. Melodramatic or hysterical behaviour, typically intended to attract attention [1931]; showy vocal or instrumental virtuosity [1940]

LARPing n. Live-action role-playing. [1990]

ludology n. The study of games (now especially video games) and game playing. [1961]

metamaterial n. A synthetic composite material engineered to display properties not usually found in natural materials. [2000]

schoolboy error at schoolboy n. A very basic or foolish mistake. [1858]

scratchiti n. Words or images engraved or etched (illegally) into surfaces in a public place. [1995]

Graeme Diamond, Principal Editor, New Words, Oxford English Dictionary