Stress busting and smoking hot: the OED June 2022 update

Stress busting and smoking hot: the OED June 2022 update

The latest update to the OED includes over 700 new entries and senses. These range alphabetically from the East African ahoi (a person or body of people given the right to cultivate a plot of land without payment) to zooarchaeological (of, relating to, or designating animal remains recovered from an archaeological site). Our new entries span more than a thousand years chronologically, from the obsolete adverb aninne (within, inside, into, first recorded in the Old English translation of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History in the early tenth century) to the early 2010s neologisms sportswash and sportswashing, referring to the use of sport or sporting events in promoting a positive public image for a country or organization, distracting from other activities considered to be unethical, illegal, or otherwise controversial.

PSA: the flava of this update 

Among other things, this update reveals that the phrase cringe factor was first used by the late Clive James in a review of the British television game show The Krypton Factor when it first aired in 1977. As a standalone noun, cringe has been used colloquially to refer to acute embarrassment or awkwardness since at least 1984, while the corresponding adjective cringe (‘it was so cringe’) is recorded from 2001. A new entry for public service announcement traces this phrase back to a 1948 report on public service broadcasting and the running of non-commercial ‘plugs’ for community causes on U.S radio stations; more recent humorous, mock-formal use is represented by a 2007 twitter posting advising against drinking a popular brand of energy drink immediately after brushing your teeth because ‘it’s gross’. You can also find out which of two competing pieces of British rhyming slang for—ahem—‘drunk, intoxicated’, Brahms and Liszt and Mozart and Liszt, is recorded earliest.

The word folx, originally a variant of folk or folks used in representations of U.S. regional speech (our first quotation is from 1833), has, since at least 2001, been adopted as an explicitly inclusive term intended to encompass people from marginalized groups, especially the LGBTQ community. The ongoing coronavirus epidemic has encouraged us to deal with unjabbed, first recorded as a general adjective meaning unpricked or unperforated in 1891, and used with reference to vaccination from 1976; noun use to refer to unvaccinated people is first found in 2009, when unvaxxed and vaxxer also make their appearances. Concerns about the security of personal information online are represented by anonymizer (a tool such as a proxy server allowing a person to use the internet anonymously, first referred to in this way in 1996) and sharenting, the (over) sharing by parents of news about or images of their children on social media, first recorded in this sense in 2012.

The world of work is represented by new entries for annual leave (first seen in a colonial, military context in 1825), annual report (attested from 1724), and standing desk (recorded earliest in 1660 to refer to a lectern to be used by schoolboys in reading or speaking aloud). From the world of physics we have new entries detailing the linguistic history of the Standard Model of the elementary subatomic particles of matter and the electromagnetic, weak, and strong forces by which they interact, and the (entirely spurious) anomalous water, while astronomy gives us yellow dwarf, the class of star to which our own sun belongs. Hip-hop and R&B give us flava, a representation of a colloquial pronunciation of ‘flavour’ used to refer to a distinctive individual musical style or character.

Revision of words related to stress has produced new entries for stress reliever, stress-busting, stress disorder, and stress bunny, a person who is (or who is liable to become) stressed, first recorded in the Irish Times in 2001. Hot on the heels of the additions of comfort-eat, comfort eater, and comfort eating last year, this update sees new entries for stress-eat, stress eater, and stress eating; in each case these compounds with stress antedate those with comfort.

Finance and related entries have also been overhauled, with new entries for financial adviser, financial crisis (first recorded in 1796, in relation to the fallout from unsuccessful attempts by the Revolutionary government of France to curb inflation), personal finance, and Islamic finance, a financial system that conforms to Islamic principles and Sharia law, especially by prohibiting the payment or receipt of interest, first referred to by this name in 1948.

Showing some ankle

Revision of the ankle range has given us new sub-entries covering the adjectives ankle-skimming, ankle-grazing, and ankle-height, mainly used to designate items of clothing that reach to the ankles. Ankle chains, ankle bracelets, and ankle bells are other new adornments in this range of words, while ankle holsters for handguns and medical ankle monitors serve more practical purposes.

Ankle-breaker and ankle-breaking are both used in general contexts (typically hyperbolically) to refer to or describe things liable to or capable of breaking a person’s ankle; both are also use in basketball with reference to a dribbling technique involving a rapid change of direction by a player, designed to make a defender stumble or fall; while ankle-breaker takes on a more literal meaning in archaeological contexts, denoting a type of small, deep hole or gully dug in Roman defensive fortifications designed to trap the feet of would-be attackers. Ankle-biting (both adjective and noun) originally referred to small and aggressive animals, especially pet dogs, before taking on a figurative dimension in describing persistently or irritatingly hostile or critical (human) behaviour. Both entries return to the physical with senses referring to aggressive tackling in soccer, while the adjective covers humorous use designating a small child or ‘ankle-biter’. Tackles and fouls (in rugby and soccer respectively) are also found in new sub-entries for ankle-tap and ankle-tapping.

We’ve also added a new American slang sense of the verb to ankle, meaning to quit or exit an organization or project, chiefly used in the entertainment industry and first recorded in the Hollywood-based Daily Variety in 1936; another early illustration of use is taken from a 1949 letter in which novelist and screenwriter, Raymond Chandler tells his favourite story about the life in Hollywood and the capriciousness of studio bosses. Also from North America is the ankle express, a humorous term for the act of walking, first recorded in a Georgia newspaper in 1887. The act of revealing or suggesting something about one’s intentions in order to arouse interest or support has been referred to as showing a little ankle only since 1984, though it seems likely to rely on the image of a nineteenth-century woman lifting her skirts to display just a little leg.

Gender expressions

A new sense of the verb to assign details the linguistic history of assigning a sex or gender to a person, and later, assigning a person as being a given sex or gender. First used in clinical contexts, such as those in which a person’s physiology is considered indeterminate or ambiguous (our earliest evidence is taken from a 1969 paediatric textbook), it is now often used when a person’s gender identity does not correspond to their sex as registered at birth. This update also sees the addition of the phrases gender expression and gender presentation, referring to the outward expression or presentation of gender or gender identity through behaviours, mannerisms, modes of dress, etc., that are culturally associated with masculinity or femininity, with gender presentation recorded from 1970 and gender expression from 1973.

Enby—a phonetic spelling of the initialism NB used to denote or designate a person whose gender identity is non-binary—has been around since at least 2013, when it is found in postings on tumblr and twitter. The word pangender has been used to describe people whose gender identity encompasses multiple genders since 1990, but was originally used (in the late 1970s) with the sense ‘encompassing, comprising, or applicable to all people, regardless of sex or gender’.

The potential for divisiveness in discussions around gender is reflected in the development of the acronym TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). The OED entry’s first recorded use is from a 2008 blog post, and although its author (trans-inclusive feminist blogger tigtog) has stated that she intended it as a neutral term, TERF is typically regarded as derogatory, and is now sometimes used to describe any person characterized as holding views hostile to trans people or as an opponent of social and political policies designed to be inclusive of trans people.

Dwarfish lords in dwarven halls

The full revision of words related to dwarf has involved drafting new senses at dwarfish and a new entry for dwarven to cover widespread use of these words in the context of mythology, folklore, and now especially fantasy fiction and games, to refer to a class of more-or-less supernatural beings typically described as short, stocky, bearded, and skilled in mining and metalworking. Our earliest quotation for dwarfish in this sense comes from towards the end of the eighteenth century, when antiquarians began to take an interest in Germanic—and especially Scandinavian—texts and legends. J. R. R. Tolkien’s writings have exerted a massive linguistic as well as a more general cultural influence on later writers: Tolkien’s preference for the forms dwarves, dwarven, and dwarvish rather than the standard dwarfs, dwarfish, etc., has become the favoured form of many, if not most, later fantasy writers.

Our earliest evidence for the use of dwarven in this context also comes from the writings of Tolkien, and is also spelled, as you’d expect in these contexts, with a v. In this case Tolkien’s influence on later use seems to have been indirect: despite its appearance (‘a sword of dwarven steel…hilted with bright gold’) in an early version of part of the Silmarillion written around 1920—coincidentally at the same time that Tolkien worked on the staff of the Oxford English Dictionary—and published as part of the Book of Lost Tales in the History of Middle Earth by Christopher Tolkien in 1984, we’ve been unable to find any use of the word in any of Tolkien’s writings published before that point, and the word in this sense and form makes its first public appearance at the end of the 1970s in references to the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons and fan-produced ‘Tolkiana’.

Dwarven is unique among this set of words in having a headword form that reflects Tolkien’s influential spelling preference, precisely because it is now found chiefly in fantasy contexts with that spelling; literary and poetic use in the form ‘dwarfen’ and the more general sense ‘smaller than is usual or expected’ is also represented by the first sense in our new entry, but it is relatively rare. Dwarfish, on the other hand, is a word with a long history and multiple senses in which mythology and fantasy, and the associated -v- form, represent only one relatively minor aspect of use and, for the time being at least, its headword form reflects more general and more widely favoured use.

This is by far from everything you can find in this update, but a fuller catalogue of new material is available here. Go and find yourself an adorable dwarf lemur, or an appetizing (?) soysage, find out what sponge bag trousers are, or find out how long anything brand new, extremely energetically performed music, or very attractive people have been described as smoking hot. We’ll be back with more additions in three months’ time.

The opinions and other information contained in the OED blog posts and comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.