Scrabbling for a new word?
The English language is constantly changing. If it didn’t, we’d still talk (and spell) like people in the time of Shakespeare, or Chaucer, or Beowulf. Which wouldn’t really be a problem – the problem we have now is because, as the language has evolved, we have lost the ability to understand how it was written and spoken in centuries gone by. We don’t get the puns in Shakespeare (were they funny even then?) We realise words must have been pronounced differently in Chaucer’s time to make any rhythmic sense. And the different spelling / pronunciation / syntax in Beowulf makes that poem almost completely incomprehensible for modern readers and listeners. Though the word Hwaet is still about the most effective way to open a poem, ever. It certainly makes you sit up and listen – much more than its feeble translation – so.
New words enter the lexicon every year and, if they catch on, they find their way into dictionaries. Purists sometimes tut-tut, others just accept it; after all there is no rule forcing you to say ‘misspoke’ if you don’t want to – you can still use the good old-fashioned ‘lie.’
American English and British English have diverged over the years – not for nothing are we described as two nations divided by a common language (a ‘fanny bag’ sounds a bit saucy to an English woman – we prefer to strap on a ‘bum bag.’)
The gap has just got wider, causing consternation in Scrabble playing households. English players rely on the Collins Official Scrabble Wordlist, Americans rely on Merriam-Webster’s Official Scrabble Players Dictionary. The latter has just published its sixth edition with around 300 new words with which to out-play your opponent. On this side of the pond we have to wait till May 2019 for Collins to update their last edition.
American players can now put emoji and frowny on the board, alongside zomboid (like a zombie), twerk (dance whilst wiggling your bum, sorry – fanny), beatdown (massive defeat), sheeple (people who are docile / sheep like), bizjet (business jet). Handy two letter words that are now accepted, include ew (expression of disgust) and OK (I hadn’t realised this was not acceptable in the UK – but I’ve just checked in my Collins dictionary, where it is written as O.K. – so therefore not okay).
Not that the Brits should despair. Although Scrabble was invented by a New Yorker, American players who want to compete internationally have to learn to use a larger board and use words only contained in the Collins dictionary. Which may come as a surprise to some – or as the latest Official Scrabble Players Dictionary would have it: Yowza!
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