Collins Dictionary has been deciding what counts as proper English since 1819. Now, after almost 200 years going it alone, it’s looking for a little help … from everyone.
Collins was the first dictionary publisher to use newfangled “computer databases” to help manage words both new and old, way back in 1979. Today the editor-and-lexicographer-reviewed dictionary is crowdsourcing at least part of the work: spotting new words.
“We want to invite everyone into the process,” Alex Brown, head of digital for Collins, told VentureBeat this morning.
So, since mid-July, Collins has been accepting submissions for new words on its website — and offering daily prizes for the best efforts.
Many of the new words lean heavily to the technology industry, with submissions such as livestreaming, superphone, cyberstalking, and tweeps.
Others seem to take inspiration from economic and political life: Eurogeddon, trendfear, and Dollargeddon.
If you submit a word and it is accepted, you will be credited, says Brown. And, if you used the site’s Facebook social login, your friends will know that you were responsible for the inclusion of a new word in the dictionary.
But editors and lexicographers will weigh in with their opinions before a word is accepted, though other users’ comments and responses to new suggestions are taken into account.
“On the site you can watch the review process,” says Brown. “You can see the status update — it’s a much more transparent process.”
To determine if a new word will be accepted, Collins lexicographers use the Collins Corpus, a 4.5 billion-word compilation of text from all over the English-speaking world … and, of course, Google. The goal is to ascertain whether a word is in wide enough circulation to be added — and whether the word is established enough to have some longevity.
Many do not get accepted. “Mobydickulous” — ridiculous to an epic degree — is a recent reject. “Tebowing” is on the edge … it may or may not make the cut.
(I didn’t ask about Linsanity.)
But already about 50 words are looking like good candidates for inclusion. Examples include crowdfunding, binging (like googling, but different), and sexting. See a full list of the new words below, along with others that are more amusing than serious submissions.
“About 10% are probably good suggestions that will go in,” Brown says.
The company says that social media and blogging are changing language faster and faster. But, perhaps astonishingly, they are not converging all English dialects and words together. I asked about that.
“You would have thought that,” Brown said in response. “But from the UK and Ireland we’ve had just loads of regional words that we thought were dying out.”
One example: chummeling … which apparently is a word mothers in parts of the UK use to to refer to kids eating their food really noisily.
“Apparently, people are sort of passionate about their local words and local culture,” says Brown.
Are you? If so, suggest your own words here.
Candidate Words likely to go into the dictionary
Please note the definitions below are the user-suggested definitions.
“the world of Twitter where communication is only via tweets”
“a challenge-response test on web forms to determine whether the user is human”
References made for updating knowledge by internet or digital media for research study.
A real-life meeting organized on the social networking site Twitter
Texting explicit sexual comments
The state of being constantly connected to people and systems through devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers – and sometimes through software that enable and promote constant communication.
informal word A woman whose behaviour in planning the details of her wedding is regarded as obsessive or intolerably demanding
like Googling, but with Bing instead of Google
A project or resource that is funded by users or supporters who pool their money together, usually via internet donation sites.
One of the latest generations of phones with more powerful, high-speed processors
Networking while at the gym.
The act of stalking someone online.
Some Interesting & Amusing Words Suggested by Users
These may or may not make it in to the dictionary.
A mean or rude comment sent on Twitter.
to buy something on eBay and immediately put it back up for auction.
Ridiculous on an epic scale
Tights for men
Pursuing women in a night club.
To get down on one knee as if praying.
Appearing at the back of someone else’s photograph without them knowing, so they are surprised when they see the photo.
Image credit: Collins