New Words

By Matt Vicker

Creating words is fun. I say words that convey some meaning but aren’t technically words. People still understand what I mean don’t they – so what’s the harm?

The inspiration for this post came when I discovered that Onezone restaurant on Frenchay Campus had changed the lids for the hot beverages. Under close inspection I discovered the word ‘sipsational’ engraved in the plastic. Here is a picture of the lid in question:


It is most probably a clever blend of ‘sensational’ and ‘sip’. It could just be a play-on-words used for humourous purposes. I have to say I did laugh when I first saw it. Then it provoked me to think deeper about the new ‘word’ that was there in front of me. If this lid were a Microsoft Word Document spellcheck would put a red squiggly line underneath it. Just to make sure it actually isn’t a word, I did this Word test to prove it…

sipsational 2

If you needed any further proof, the OED does not recognise it and as you will know from most of my posts on here, the Oxford English Dictionary website is my ultimate go-to source.

no dictionary definitions

Most words will start off like this, not being an entry, but the driving force of language use is the younger generations – if the young ‘uns start to use ‘sipsational’ – “That hot chocolate is sipsational, man!” then soon enough it will have an entry in dictionaries, as well as being commonplace in our everyday language.

There is one ‘word’ that comes to mind, that is quite unique to my family. When we were younger, my sister created the word ‘squishered’ which is almost synonymous in meaning with squashed and squished i.e. ‘Look at that fly – it’s been squishered’. It could be that it’s a Bristolian-ism (us people from Bristol like to add ‘r’s to words) and that she really meant ‘squished’ but to us it is now an inside-joke. It is a word that we commonly use to describe something that has been flattened. We created and it conveys meaning, does it need to be an entry in the OED to actually be a ‘word’ or would it just be considered a ‘nonsense nonword’?

Supposedly, in the last 14 years there has only been 55 new additions to the OED ( which I found to be quite surprising. It is especially striking when you consider in the 49 years prior to that (1950-99) there were 13176 new entries. This could be a sign that new words are on the decrease (which would go contrary to theories that new words are entering the language). However, if you observe the link above, you will notice that words like ‘seflie’ and ‘omnishambles’ aren’t even mentioned in that list, making me think that it is not quite up to date. Either that, or there is a prescriptivist at the OED who doesn’t like these words. I highly doubt that, though – a lexicographer who doesn’t like new words, whatever next, a doctor who doesn’t like medicines that cure illnesses?

After ‘selfie’ was the word of the year for 2013 (see my post on the subject is there any way we can get ‘sipsational’ to be the word of 2014? Would we even want to?

Ultimately, I am posing to you the question: are we going too far with creating words, (brand names aside) do we not have enough words for everything? Or are new words just inevitable with new technologies, new processes and varying social developments happening all the time, should we just accept that comes with it? Let me know your thoughts on this topic in the comment section under this post!

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