When is cheddar not just cheese? In the OED update of course!

When is cheddar not just cheese? In the OED update of course!

Readers may be pleased to hear that an entry for antigram is being published in the OED for the first time. For those not familiar, an antigram is an anagram that has an opposite or contradictory meaning to the original word or phrase; the quotations we’ve chosen give the examples of ‘funeral’ / ‘real fun’, and ‘honestly’ / ‘on the sly’. An anagram of ‘dictionary’ is ‘idiocy rant’, which I hope counts as an antigram. Ranting and idiocy are frowned on at Great Clarendon Street, rest assured.

To prove this, let’s look at our sober and measured approach to new additions as part of the revision of the deep range of words. The main adjective entry now contains a number of new senses: use referring to a receptacle or container of considerable depth (e.g. ‘a deep oven dish’) goes back to Old English; flavours and smells were called deep when rich and full-bodied as far back as 1651; astronomical use meaning ‘high in the sky or far from the earth’ dates to at least 1787; and since the early 1990s, forms of electronic dance music have been designated deep when more complex, intense, obscure, or abstract than typical.

Deepfake is a particularly interesting, and recent, term in this range. It’s a noun with the definition ‘any of various media, esp. a video, that has been digitally manipulated to replace one person’s likeness convincingly with that of another, often used maliciously to show someone doing something that he or she did not do.’ The earliest use we could find is from 2018, so it’s a sign of how quickly a particular technology and the words associated with it can develop and spread that this term was so widely used and understood, across the world, within a couple of years. Fascinating, terrifying, or both, depending on your point of view.

Something else fascinating (though when you think about it, also slightly terrifying) is the antipodist as described in our new earliest sense there. This is ‘an entertainer or acrobat who performs physical feats upside down, or with the legs instead of the arms; esp. one who juggles with the feet rather than the hands.’ Our first quotation is from the Times in 1829, and mentions ‘Mr O’Donnel, the celebrated Antipodist.’ The term is still used, though it’s a shame I can’t think of one such entertainer; skill like this should be celebrated more often.

There are various other noteworthy words beginning with anti– added in this range. Antigodlin is a US regional word, chiefly from the south and west, that means ‘diagonally, on a slant’, or ‘out of line, slanting, askew’. The variant forms section here is a doozy:

along with a complex etymology, and it’s the same at the corresponding entry sigogglin, which means much the same thing but is the version used in Appalachia. Anti-establishmentarianism is a long word now filling space in our digital pages, though overshadowed by its slightly longer (and slightly older) cousin, the famous antidisestablishmentarianism. (That was already in OED.) We’ll stop there though: I wouldn’t want to go on so long about these that everyone reading becomes anti anti.

It tells us much about human nature that one type of word you can guarantee will come up in any quarterly update we work on is the insult, and this one is no different: we see lamester, crazy-pants, freako, and more in this update. At the same time, we’ve added a new sense to our entry for slur, meaning ‘a term of abuse or contempt; esp. a highly offensive insult used to denigrate a person on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.’ This dates back, as far as we can tell, to 1888, where it’s used in an American publication about slang. Until this point, and from at least the early 1600s, the word had related meanings, such as ‘a deliberate slight’ and ‘a discredit’, as well as less obviously related ones referring to printing and music, but this most recent sense has become key in the century-and-a-bit since its development.

Dish dog appears to be something slightly less than, though approaching, a term of abuse or contempt, as does the related dish pig; both are used in professional kitchens to refer to ‘a person employed to wash dishes and carry out other menial tasks in a kitchen; a kitchen porter.’  (The former is North American, the latter used in Canada and Australia. I see now that OED doesn’t cover potwasher; we’ll have to look into that.) Something else you might find in a kitchen is cheddar, which has a new sense as part of this update, though you wouldn’t want to eat it. Hip-hop, that reliable slang generator, brought the use of cheddar meaning ‘money’ to our attention: ‘Touch my cheddar, feel my Beretta,’ said the Notorious B.I.G. in 1994. (‘No thank you, but I do appreciate the offer.’) It makes sense when you know that cheese has been a slang term for money in the US since the mid 19th century, and consider that Wensleydale is probably somewhat less friendly to the rap lyricist.

Somebody said to have liked cheese, when melted on top of a hamburger at least, was Elvis Presley, and it’s fitting to see the King named in our first quotation at pop idol, from the Chicago Tribune in 1956:

We’ve also added teen idol; the person referred to in the 1957 first quotation there – Sal Mineo – is another who died before his time, though not before earning two Oscar nominations.

Two other Oscar nominees are mentioned in this update as well, both films. A new sense at easy rider mentions the movie of that name, which was nominated twice in 1969 (original screenplay, and supporting actor for Jack Nicholson, in case you were wondering). The definition is ‘A person, typically a motorcyclist, viewed as representing freedom from responsibility, an alternative subculture, and an adventurous lifestyle’, and a small-type note covers the cinematic origins of this use. Elsewhere, the new headword gimp has a first quotation taken from the last draft of the script for Pulp Fiction, Quentin Tarantino’s big hit from 1994. This use, which denotes a person who takes a submissive or subservient role in bondage and similar activities, typically while wearing a mask or bodysuit, seems to stem from that unforgettable scene in the film (if you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about), and may be a transferred use of an earlier gimp homonym, which means ‘a stupid, inept, or contemptible person’. Pulp Fiction was nominated for several Oscars, and won best original screenplay; it’s no coincidence that both films mentioned here, whose language continues to influence ours, were nominated in this category.

There are, as always, many, many other new additions to OED this quarter, though we don’t have time or space to cover them all here. Would you like to be described as a skelpie? Not in Scotland, you wouldn’t. Is the modern sense of demimonde something you’d want to be part of? Ça dépend. Have you ever met a groomzilla? Possibly. Let us help answer these burning questions.

(A random selection of words, you say, not marked by discernment? Think again. It is most certainly not indiscriminate; on the contrary, I discern aim in‘t.)


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