Saturday, March 26, 2011

OMG, OED: More cluelessness on parade

My blog colleagues have already issued warnings to the ill-informed complainers -- like WaPo blogger Alexandra Petri -- who are dismayed by the OED’s inclusion of OMG, LOL, and the like in the latest revision. Said Brian White:  “PLEASE STOP WHINING.” Robert Lane Greene: “So the OED included some words people use. Nothing to see here.” John McIntyre: "You may be astonished that a newspaper would publish a humorous essay that is not funny, expressing opinion that is not informed, but I’m concerned with something broader than that feeble effort. Why is it that people do not understand what dictionaries are for?”

But not everyone is getting the message. Writing today at about Chris Brown’s apology for his “Good Morning America” antics, Charles Walsh delivers another dope slap to the OED -- but he kindly attaches a boomerang to it, ensuring the dope slap ends up where it belongs.

“Brown was disappointed that the GMA host did not adhere to the 'talking points sheet' he had his people send over that was all 'positivity,'" writes Walsh.
He did not apologize for inventing the word positivity, which no doubt will be included in the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. (Prediction: next spring the OED staff will publicly apologize for adding the hideous texting shorthand LOL and OMG to their august compendium of wordage this week.)
Well, you all know what comes next. The OED’s first cite for positivity (“The quality, character, or fact of being positive (in various senses); positiveness”) dates to 1659. Here’s Isaac Watts in 1741: “Courage and Positivity are never more necessary than on such an Occasion.” And Fraser’s Magazine in 1842: “The most positive man I ever met with … There is positivity in his dark face, large eyebrows, stern features.” And so on, till the present day. But who wants 350 years' worth of facts when there's a good rant just begging to be ranted?


Bryan White said...

Tell that Brian White guy to "PLEASE STOP STEALING MY NAME"

T. Roger Thomas said...

The inclusion of words that people frequently use in the dictionary isn't news

George McNinch said...

The word "positivity" actually gets a lot of use in mathematics: see e.g. this book title.

Stan said...

'Why is it that people do not understand what dictionaries are for?'

This is a good question. I think descriptivism has completely passed a lot of people by. They retain old-fashioned ideas not just about the purpose of dictionaries but about language generally. So they expect authorities to reflect and justify their knee-jerk peeves about usage.

John Cowan said...

Considering the existence of writers Theodore H. White, T.H. White, and Ted White, I think you have little to complain about, Bryan.

(Pedantic note: T.H. White's first name was Terence, not Theodore.)