In 2007, the Wall Street Journal proclaimed that the day of the dictionary was over, claiming Google was our new ‘database of meaning’.
Over a decade later, it seems that reports of the dictionary’s death were greatly exaggerated. In fact, the need for a reliable, authoritative source of truth and accuracy has never been more important.
In an era when ‘fake news’ has become part of the common lexicon, and when it is possible to Google anything and find many but alarmingly varied answers, the community is looking for a source of truth that is reliable.
Even car companies are throwing the weight of their marketing muscle behind dictionaries, with Jaguar recently challenging Oxford Dictionaries to change the definition of the word ‘car’.
And far from dying out, dictionaries are rapidly evolving, embracing technological language and reflecting changing social norms.
In the most recent update of the Australian Student’s Oxford Dictionary, more than 1000 new words have been added, along with 1400 updates and edits to existing entries.
Many new entries reflect the increasing integration of the online, computer and social media spheres into people’s lives. They include: bitcoin, app, blockchain, BitTorrent, clickbait, crowdfunding, dark net, geoblocking, meme, paywall, ransomware, uber, username and widget.
Other new entries reflect ongoing social and cultural change in contemporary society, including: acai, anti-vax, bao, chia, coeliac disease, EpiPen, flash mob, fracking, gamer, hipster, matcha, millennial, onesie, pho, robocall, selfie, self-medicate, start-up, upcycle and Zumba.
The number of Australian English entries has also been expanded, with the inclusion of: acknowledgement of country, bogan, bush food, captain’s pick, cruisy, first Australian, long black, polli, puggle, sledge, songline and tall poppy.
A new appendix – Locations of Aboriginal Languages – includes a map of where Aboriginal languages are located in Australia. Along with the many new entries for Aboriginal groups included in the body of the dictionary, the map helps to illustrate the borrowing from Aboriginal languages in Australian English. Those words that are derived from an Aboriginal language include an etymology to explain which language the word is derived from.
These updates reveal a continuing need to record language in a way that is both current and reliable.