Technology and new words

Published 30th November 2012
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You only need to compare a dictionary from five years ago to one from this year to see how many new words enter the English language due to the rise in technology. The invention of Facebook, for example, led to the verb form, ‘to facebook someone’ which seems no less strange to say than ‘to write to someone’. When Twitter came into the picture, people were ‘tweeting’ and having ‘tweetups’ which are meetings arranged through Twitter. There are others too such as ‘tablet’ which has now become something other than a sweet.

The other day on the radio, I heard yet more new words, such as ‘notspot’ which was defined as being an area where you don’t get mobile signal or Wifi, as opposed to a ‘hotspot’ which is widely used and recognised in many public places. Another word was ‘entexticated’, to mean someone who is totally involved in texting. The last word I heard was ‘ringxiety’ where you think that your phone is ringing when you hear the same ringtone, this is especially prevalent on trains. A lot of mobile phone users will probably be able to relate to the latter two words in particular, I know I can.

Although these words aren’t in the dictionary at the moment, they are being used by people and have obviously come from somewhere. It just takes one person or a group of people to invent these words and use them in their conversations until eventually they catch on in their social circles and friends of friends or colleagues adopt them. Before you know it, the whole country is using words that may have started out on someone’s flipchart. It is at that point that the words becomes used in general circulation and usually end up in the dictionary.

Language has changed immensely over the years to reflect society at the time. To think that at some point the words ‘computer’ and ‘Internet’ weren’t spoken is mind boggling because now they seem as essential as the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Change will continue to happen over the coming years to accommodate advances in technology and new products, but it is usually new verbs and nouns that appear more readily than prepositions. Similarly, some words may disappear from circulation, already some children are growing up not knowing what a video is, and that shows the strong influence technological advances have on vocabulary not just in the UK, I imagine, but worldwide.

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