Sunday, 9 November 2003
Update: Dictionaries as social commentary
A few minutes after publishing my last piece, I saw this article in today's New York Times: Assisted Living to Viagra: A Dictionary Nod to Aging. It bolsters my argument about dictionaries being a lagging bellwether of commentary and social trends. The article quotes John M. Morse, the president and publisher of Merriam-Webster:
The words being added to the dictionary are a fascinating barometer of what's going on in our society. … When I read the tea leaves in the new dictionary, what I see is, yes, the Internet is the biggest thing in the world. But aging baby boomers may be the second-biggest thing. … What's in the dictionary is important beyond just looking up words. It's a sign — or warning — for advertisers and even politicians who have to appeal to the public. Significant changes in society create significant changes in the lexicon. And a dictionary is telling us where change is taking place.