LMAO the English Language is my BFF

Is the English language open to additions and alterations? Or, is the language fine the way it is? Where can we draw the line between acceptable changes and alterations that are not be beneficial to the language?

If you pick up a new edition of the Oxford American Dictionary, and actually open it (or use it), you might be surprised by some recent changes and additions. Here are few of the recent changes:

BFF n. (pl. BFFs) informal a girl’s best friend: my BFF’s boyfriend is cheating on her.
– ORIGIN 1996: from the initial letters of best friend forever.

bromance n. informal a close but nonsexual relationship between two men.
– ORIGIN early 21st cent.: blend of brother and romance.

defriend v. another term for unfriend.

green-collar adj. denoting or relating to employment concerned with products and services designed to improve the quality of the environment: green-collar jobs.
– ORIGIN on the pattern of white-collar and blue-collar.

LMAO abbr. vulgar slang laughing my ass off.

Now that these terms and abbreviations are officially accepted as part of the English language, should we expect to see a new era of teenagers justifying their use of these terms in everyday conversation. Additionally, should teachers be worried about receiving essays and assignments filled with compounded words like ‘bromance’.

When sending a text message, email, or other forms of electronic communications where writing space is limited, it is understandable that one would use abbreviations, and/or other terms invented to shorten electronic communication messages. In my opinion, I do not see any harm resulting from these changes. Though it is true in many countries that the overall writing skills of younger populations is decreasing (not in all circumstances). The cause of this issue is not only that younger generations are using ‘internet verbiage’ ‘too often’,  it could also be attributed to a failure of the educational systems in those particular countries. It could be that students are not being graded critically on their writing skills. How many times have you heard teachers saying “I will not be grading your grammar. This is not an English class, so just make sure to do your best.” I would prefer it if all teachers, across all disciplines (except maybe math and science), took the time to properly grade grammar, sentence structure, and spelling.

Do you have an opinion on Oxford Dictionaries addition of these terms? (more additions are available here) If so, please post a comment below.


~ by Peter on September 21, 2010.

5 Responses to “LMAO the English Language is my BFF”

  1. Oh my, do I EVER have an opinion on this. Nothing outrages me more.
    Out of all of those terms, I think the only acceptable one would be green-collar because it actually makes sense and isn’t broken down english. The others: no.
    No, no, no and no.

    Someone I spoke to today told me that apparently there are Universities that accept slang in written assignments. They say that only the content matters, they don’t care how it’s written. I cannot accept that that’s possible. We’re going to be living in a world where people spell/speak like they’re constantly drunk and uneducated.
    Nothing disappoints me more.
    I’d go on but it would not be very coherent.

    • I cannot accept that either, it’s just silly if it is true. Have those people really stopped caring about professionalism to such an extent? Well I agree with them that only content matters. Although I would say that grammar, spelling, and coherency are fundamental parts of the content of an assignment–they are not separable. I understand their position in that a teacher can understand the content of a paper even if some parts are slang. But this promotes that each student may write/spell however choose. The English language does not change from person to person, it is a common language that we all use, therefore in a public setting such as school we have adopted conventions which I believe ought to be followed universally.

      Thanks for the comment Stuuph 🙂

  2. Hi Pete,
    I work for Oxford University Press. And I can assure you that adding new entries in the dictionary isn’t meant to justify their use. You can’t imagine how many letters are received in which readers are outraged at the inclusion of various words. But the response was, is, and always will be (I hope) that the lexicographer’s job is to record the language in a non-biased way. Not make judgments about it or exclude words we don’t approve of or that have negative connotations. There are thousands of disgusting words in the dictionary reflecting the disgusting things humans do—but we can’t omit them because they are offensive to somebody.

    If you bought a copy of our latest, New Oxford American Dictionary 3rd ed. (NOAD 3), then thank you! Please look on page xiii and xiv in the front matter. This explains the “Corpus,” OUP’s huge database of citations. The Corpus is formed from billions of words reflecting actual usage in newspapers, magazines, books, etc. (Teams of people maintain this database.) Every example cited in an OUP dictionary is a real one—usage plus how common a word is are the determining factors in what get in. It can affect spelling too. Other words have meanings which evolve into new senses, others become dated or archaic.

    There’s no point fighting the evolution of language—you can’t win—esp. the more global we become. I view the degradation of our beautiful language with dismay as well. But when certain new words exist in huge numbers, they are recorded. It doesn’t make them acceptable in serious writing though.

    You should see the signage, menus, brochures, etc., where I live in AZ for some real butchery. And they don’t care either, even if you tell them. I think in general people today are not very careful communicators—perhaps blame parental, cultural, or educational influences—but certainly it is not the fault of the dictionary.


    • Hey Debra 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting again.

      I agree that a lexicographer should be unbiased when making additions to the dictionary. Like you said, we have many words that explain the horrible things humans do and we cannot pick and choose which terms are acceptable based on our personal preferences.

      My problem is not with Oxford University Press, the lexicographer, or dictionaries in general. I did say that I did not see any ‘real’ harm resulting from adding words such as LMAO in the dictionary so that societies can learn their historicity and meaning. My problem lies in a fear of people justifying their use of these slang terms in professional arenas (school, businesses, media).

      It is not the dictionaries fault or the fault of those who added terms, the blame would be attributed to those who accept ‘crude’ English as ‘proper’ English. We already have a major problem in Western societies with illiteracy and writing skills which could be attributable to parental, and educational influences. From my experience I see things getting worse. Again, it is not OUP’s fault, rather it is the fault of society as a whole who altogether have seemingly forgotten about enforcing and applying the conventions of our language.

      If it was not clear in my post: I do not think that adding terms to dictionaries, such as ‘LMAO’, ‘bromance’, or sentences such as ‘my bad’, promotes the improper use of the English language, but it does give society an informal method of justifying their use.

      Side note: One of my professors had to give the class a fifteen minute lecture today on acceptable conventions when communicating with people in a professional setting (IE Teachers). She felt the need to give us this lecture because she received a “couple of emails” over the weekend that began with “What’s up Dr. Freeman” — I couldn’t help but laugh when she said that.

  3. “What’s up Dr. Freeman” is just plain ignorant. I hope her class got a good lesson in professional communication…the fact that these are college level people is pathetic. It does make you wonder how/why/where/when they got the idea it would be OK to open with this absolutely inappropriate phrase.

    I think with such fierce competition for jobs in the real world that they’re going to have to smarten up. It’s not easy to score a good job, esp. when you’re an idiot!

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