Dictionary Makers Kill the Cassette Player to Make Room for the Mankini

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 19 2011 12:09 PM

Dictionary Makers Kill the Cassette Player to Make Room for the Mankini

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Photograph courtesy of Stockbyte/Thinkstock.

On Thursday, a collective woot! went up around the blogosphere as the Concise Oxford English Dictionary announced that its 12th edition would include such newfangled terms as noob, nurdle, mankini, and jeggings.

But unlike its behemoth, ever-expanding cousin, the historical Oxford English Dictionary, the Concise OED has to maintain its trim profile. Angus Stevenson, head of dictionary projects at the Oxford University Press, explained in an email that in order to make room for the 400 new words in this go-round, his team had to cut some 200. (Modern design and typesetting allowed them to cram more info on the page without losing legibility, so they were able to keep their linguistic kill rate down.)

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We may be feeling particularly wistful about words today, thanks to Juliet Lapidos’s Slate essay on why some slang terms stick around while others evaporate. (Mysto, we’ll miss you.) So we thought we’d pause and pour one out for the words that got shafted to make room for sexting, slow food, and upcycle. Here's a small selection of some of our favorites:

brabble: paltry noisy quarrel

growlery: place to growl in, private room, den (“what we might call a man cave these days,” Stevenson wrote on the Oxford University Press blog)

cassette player: a machine for playing back or recording audio cassette

Eurocommunism: a European form of communism which advocates the preservation of many elements of Western liberal democracy

halier: a former monetary unit of Slovakia, equal to one hundredth of a koruna [Slovakia now has the euro]

glocalization: the practice of conducting business according to both local and global considerations

script kiddie: a person who uses existing scripts or codes to hack into computers, lacking the expertise to write their own

threequel: the third film, book, event, etc. in a series; a second sequel

video jockey: a person who introduces and plays music videos on television

S-VHS: super video home system, an improved version of VHS

millennium bug: an inability in older computing software to deal correctly with dates of 1 January 2000 or later

Stevenson explained that some of the words that got cut were boring things like cross-references or uncommon spelling variants, and that many of the rest fell into distinct categories, such as: obsolete technology; things having to do with changes in the world or past current affairs; abbreviations and acronyms; and slang or informal words that didn't quite stick. (When it comes to the last, Stevenson writes that his team has "often observed" the truth of Juliet's theory that shorter slang words fare better than longer, more convoluted ones. "Also words that just don’t "look right" don’t catch on—I don’t think vlog or vlook will hang around for long, despite their ‘oo’ sounds.")

Feel free to retweet this list. And don’t worry—all the dropped words live on in the larger Oxford Dictionary of English and in the Oxford Dictionaries Online website.

Nina Shen Rastogi is a writer and editor, and is also the vice president for content at Figment.