Contributed by the Oxford English Dictionary team.
Be part of our celebrations, starting with a new word appeal: ‘Words Where You Are’
Over the next twelve months, we will be marking the Oxford English Dictionary’s 90th birthday with a host of exciting initiatives. A wealth of information celebrating the past, present, and future of one of the largest dictionaries in the world can be found at our OED90 website.
Oxford English Dictionary word appeal – Words Where You Are
For state capture, tenderpreneur and expropriation without compensation to pop up in conversation, you probably need to have frequented the South African political landscape of the recent past. South Africa’s rich cultural diversity has, however, birthed a long history of amalgamations and borrowed words from all 11 official languages, and then some.
Where else but in our beloved country would tsotsis who hide out in dongas and smoke dagga make you sommer deurmekaar, would you be served sosaties and boerewors at a braai, or stop at a robot on your way to get your papsak from the local shebeen to help swallow your walkie talkies and slap chips? Lekker, bru.
It’s likely all of us can recall a moment when a word we’ve known and have been using for years at home turns out to be completely baffling to people from another English-speaking region. While many such words are common in speech, some are rarely written down and therefore can easily escape the attention of dictionary editors.
The OED is trying to create the most comprehensive, accurate, and up to date picture of how and where these words are used, and we need your help. So, wherever you are, we want to hear about words and expressions that are distinctive to where you live or where you are from. Send them to our website or join the conversation on Twitter at #wordswhereyouare.
Michael Proffitt, Chief Editor of the OED, says “The OED’s comprehensive record of the English language is also an index of sorts to people’s tireless creativity and diversity over many centuries. Regional words are among the most distinctive, inventive, and evocative in the language. They can create a sense of belonging – of childhood, family, or home – or a sense of difference. Because many regional words occur in speech more than in writing, they don’t always get the recognition they deserve in dictionaries.
“Tell us about the words you think are specific to your part of the world, and help us improve the dictionary’s description of English where you are.”
Phillip Louw, Dictionary Content Development Manager at OUP South Africa said that through detailed analysis of large text collections, “Oxford’s dictionary-makers have kept an eagle eye on South African English as it’s used in a variety of genres – fiction, non-fiction, newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc. The OED’s initiative gives us a chance to find those hidden gems that are part of everyday conversations: from braais, to lekgotlas, to after (tears) parties. It’s a chance for South Africans to showcase the wit and linguistic innovation we use to make sense of our shared reality.”