How technology has changed language

Up until the last year or so, if you’d told a friend you were going to retweet something they’d probably have thought you were imitating birdsong… or have gone cuckoo, at least.

New words related to technology have made their way into the dictionary

But you’ve not lost the plot; you can now even include ‘retweet’ in a game of Scrabble because it is one of 400 words added to this year’s Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Twitter has gone mainstream, folks.

It’s just another example of technology changing the English language. Other new entrants this year include woot (an exclamation of joy or triumph) and cyberbullying (using electronic communication to bully someone), while follower has now been updated to include its meaning in social networking.

Fresh concepts

Technology has driven changes to our language for years, given that it introduces new gadgets and fresh concepts to our lives. More recently, the rise of social media has increasingly had an impact on the big book of words. Who knows what Dr Samuel Johnson would have made of it all?

While it seems likely that phrases such as ‘email’ and ‘broadband’ are going to be in our language for a long time to come, because of the longevity of the technology, there are also words that won’t quite make the grade.

Do you remember when text speak was all the rage? Academics were on TV on what seemed to be a nightly basis, shaking their fists at the damage it was doing to our language.

It’s still around, of course, but research found only one in 10 words sent by text was actually abbreviated. I’d imagine that’s a lot to do with the rise of predictive text, making it possible to key in fully-formed words without too much effort. It’s probably now easier than text speak.

Brand names

Many of the other words that work their way into the dictionary are brand names that become synonymous with the range of products or the task they perform. ‘To hoover ’ has become a verb used instead of ‘to vacuum clean’.

So what words do you expect to enter the dictionary next time round and in years to come?

Perhaps there will be a continued focus on social networking, making it possible to be ‘Linkedin’ with someone, while I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘to Skype’ became a verb.

It’s also likely there will be more new meanings for existing works, like ‘BlackBerry’ and perhaps even ’ Knowhow ’ (defined as exceptional service, of course).

But quite how the dictionary would accommodate well-used Twitter hashtags like #ff for follow Fridays is unclear.

What tech words do you think deserve a place in the dictionary? Comment below or tweet @DixonsinTheKnow