'Backronym' crowdfunds itself into Oxford English Dictionary

Reg favourite joins 'meh', 'twerk' and 'yarnstorm' in bulging lexicon

Proof, were it needed, that El Reg is down wiv da lingo comes with the inclusion of "backronym" in the Oxford English Dictionary – one of 500 new words just added to the bulging lexicon.

As regular readers know, we like a nice backronym, hence "Paper Aircraft Released Into Space" (PARIS), "Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator" (LOHAN), "Special Project Electronic Altitude Release System" (SPEARS), and the recent and highly improbable "Planes Reactive Airborne Tests Checking Heuristically for Extreme Technological Tantrums" (PRATCHETT).

Of course, we can't take credit for inventing backronym. That honour apparently falls to one Meredith G. Williams of Potomac, who first suggested "bacronym" to the Washington Post in 1983, as "the same as an acronym, except that the words were chosen to fit the letters".

In case you're wondering why it's taken so long for backronym to claim its rightful place in the OED, words considered for inclusion must demonstrate several years' solid use.

For example, fellow dictionary newbie "crowdfunding" first popped up in 2006.

"Twerk", meanwhile, at first glance appears to have gyrated its way to fame a mere two years ago, thanks to Miley Cyrus. In fact, the dance move "which emphasizes the performer’s posterior originated in the early 1990s in the New Orleans 'bounce' music scene", the OED's Katherine Connor Martin explains.

The word itself, in the sense of "a twisting or jerking movement", can be traced back to 1820 (spelt "twirk"), when one Charles Clairmont wrote: "Really the Germans do allow themselves such twists & twirks of the pen, that it would puzzle any one."

Other notables – or outrages, depending on your viewpoint – on the list of new OED words include "meh", "autotune" (see Miley Cyrus, above), "photobomb", "retweet", "twitterati" and "webisode".

We were particularly taken with "yarnstorm", aka "yarn bomb", the product of "guerrilla knitting", and "comedogenic", a very handy term meaning "tending to clog pores especially by the formation of blackheads".

Expect to see that soon in a Reg headline near you, quite likely as "ubercomedogenic", given that our preferred augmentative prefix "uber-" is also now part of the OED's happy linguistic family. ®




Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018