Monday, December 10, 2007

Facebook becoming a real word?

Merriam-Webster (MW) recently concluded its annual Word of the Year poll, and the results are pending.

To my surprise, "facebook" is on this year's list. You might recall that MW ran a similar poll last year, and the word "truthiness" won by a large margin, beating out even "google".

The fellas over at Mountain View got the last laugh though - "google" was inducted as a verb in both the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary last year. Google joins Xerox as a verb
You can view the MW definition here, and the listing here.

Facebook has some ways to go before it becomes a real word. For now, it has only made it as far as MW's open dictionary, which defines facebook and facebooking. I'm sure Mark Zuckerberg ordered all his employees to vote up "facebook" in the MW poll. At this point though, I feel that the word is mainly synonymous with "time-wasting" or "goofing off".

It should be noted that "truthiness", despite being 2006 word of the year, has not been included in the MW dictionary. It is still listed in the open dictionary. Unsurprisingly though, truthiness does have its own Wikipedia entry.

Just what is this open dictionary? MW says it contains words submitted by "other members of the Merriam-Webster Online community", which, as far as I can tell, means "any damn fool on the Net". If that is the case, then the open dictionary doesn't seem to be any different from the Urban Dictionary.

So what does it take for a word to be added to "real" dictionaries?

Graeme Diamond, Senior Assistant Editor at Oxford University Press provides some insight. He is responsible for researching, drafting, and editing dictionary entries for new English words and meanings.
New Words: How do they get into the Oxford English Dictionary?

MW has a FAQ covering the same topic.
How does a word get into a Merriam-Webster dictionary?

In a related issue, this article in the NYT seems to dismiss WOTY (word of the year) polls as gimmicky, publicity-seeking stunts by dictionary publishers.

1 comment:

catyong said...

So if Google is verb for search, FaceBook shall be synonymous to verb that suckers (ie. me) do at work, an official office time waster, a veritable privacy and security threat etc. And that's just a fraction of it!

It's too many things to to many people in too many parts of the world.