It seems the good people at the Oxford English Dictionary have had a busy time of late. Nestled among the more than 1,200 new words and phrases are some politically charged words that have come to define the modern era.
Arguably the most interesting new additions to the definitive record of the English language are “woke” and “post-truth.” The former has, of course, been in the dictionary for quite some time and while it still retains its original meaning, it now has a new connotation.
In the modern context, “woke” now also means being “aware” or “well informed” in a political or cultural sense.
The literary arbiters note that over the past 10 years, this meaning of woke “has been catapulted into mainstream use with a particular nuance of ‘alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice’.”
“Popularized through the lyrics of the 2008 song Master Teacher by Erykah Badu, in which the words ‘I stay woke’ serve as a refrain, and more recently through its association with the Black Lives Matter movement, especially on social media.”
Also making its way into the updated edition is last year’s Oxford English Dictionary word of the year: “post-truth.”
The word rose to prominence last year, particularly around events such as the UK’s Brexit referendum and during Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign. Dictionary boffins noticed a 2,000 percent increase in its usage throughout 2016 compared to 2015.
“Post-truth” is defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping political debate or public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
Some other interesting additions include “particle zoo,” which is “the collective term for all of the various types of subatomic particle” such as “quark,” “graviton” and “boson.”
“Baltic” has also been added, which Scottish and Irish readers will already know the definition of. For anyone unfamiliar with it, “Baltic” means “extremely cold.”
The OED has also made an addition which will see a new word take up the mantle of the dictionary’s final entry.
“Zythum” (a kind of malt beer brewed in ancient Egypt) held the spot until this update. Now, however, “zyzzyva” takes its position.
Described as “the name of a genus of tropical weevils native to South America and typically found on or near palm trees,” it was coined by entomologist Thomas Lincoln Casey in 1922. If you’re wondering how it’s pronounced, it’s thought the spelling may reference the noise made by a weevil.