OMG, I Got An Email From My BFF … And Other Language News

March 28, 2011


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the Idea Peepshow debut of Alex Weaver, a new Fast Horse intern.

Despite your success, or failure, with March Madness brackets, the evolution of language is a sure bet. Lexicography and the English language have become front page news during the past couple of weeks with some “major” changes.

  • AP style changes: e-mail will now be referred to as email (yes, this is a big deal).
  • The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announced that OMG, BFF, LOL and TMI would be included in the online dictionary, along with more than 900 words.

As an English major, the OED is my holy grail of dictionaries. My future library will be complete with the whopping 20 volume print set, as well as a first edition of “East of Eden” and shelves so tall I need a ladder, but that’s another blog post.

To be honest, I’m on the fence about the inclusion of abbreviations, used mainly as text messaging and online lingo, being in the dictionary.

Don’t get me wrong, language is evolving, and will continue to, because we use it everyday. Recently, I’ve come to the realization that I tend to turn nouns into verbs, like name tagging. I would venture to say that I’m not alone. Everyone has small, individual language quirks that are shaped by external factors like communication tools, style guides, geography and the people we’re around.

Our use of language is what lexicographers study in order to accurately portray the English language. OMG, BFF, LOL and TMI are strongly tied to our growing use of technology and the evolution of how we communicate with each other. Text messaging and Twitter are rife with abbreviations, used to keep the message short and sweet. Granted, it’s also due in part to a character limit. But if OMG is part of the online OED in 2011, what’s included in 2030? Would emoticons ever be included? I would hope not, but they’re becoming a standard in the online conversation. They express emotion and act as a substitution for words. It may seem far-fetched but cracking open the door on the inclusion of abbreviations will raise these types of questions.

In the end, I’m left wondering if the future of the English language in the OED will be a byproduct of simply not wanting or having enough characters to type oh, my God? I hope not. But let’s face it, what’s included is up to us.