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New Words


New Words

by Kenneth Lyen

Language is a living entity, constantly evolving to adapt to its changing environment. New words that are suited to its cultural milieu and are robust enough, will survive this Darwinian process of natural selection. In contrast, words that are effete and ineffective, will either be weeded out, or die an ignominious death from total neglect. In this lexicographic universe, there is a constant struggle for life, but only the fittest words will survive.

The new 11th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary has just been published, and it has retired some defunct words, and added a sprinkling of new words. These include "va-va-voom" which is referred to as: "the quality of being exciting, vigorous, or sexually attractive". Another new word is "blue-on-blue", which is defined as: "denoting or relating to an attack made by one's own side that accidentally harms one's own forces". "Congestion charge" also makes its debut, described as: "a charge made to drive into an area, typically a city centre, that suffers heavy traffic." Because the Oxford English Dictionary is compiled and published in England, the phrase "congestion charge" is included, rather than the Singapore equivalent, "ERP (electronic road pricing)".

Singaporeans often like to use or abuse new words. All right, the words are not exactly new. But I hate it when they refer to badminton players as "shuttlers", or table tennis players as "paddlers". It has an air of condescension, which irks me inordinately.

One last comment. Please allow me to invent a new word. I would suggest a new verb: to "simon cowell", meaning "to make a brutally honest no-holds barred insult." And if American Idol judge Simon Cowell endorses my proposal, I will ejaculate ecstatically "Va-va-voom!!!"