October 5, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Does Slang Belong in the Dictionary?

Does Slang Belong in the Dictionary?

I use slang almost constantly, and am hardly one of these high-brow language snobs moaning about the downfall of humanity as a result of our collective declining grammatical abilities (though it is disturbing).

But why does slang have to be in the dictionary? Doesn’t it receive a certain level of validation by that inclusion, resulting in it no longer even qualifying as slang?

I lamented with great concern that the nonsense word “w00t,” which, containing two numbers instead of letters, isn’t even a word by the loosest definitions, had been named the “Word of the Year” for 2007 by Merriam-Webster. And now they’re doing it to me again.

“Fanboy” has no place in the dictionary, for crying out loud. It’s not a word. It’s a silly slang term. I can excuse “webinar” making the cut, to some extent. A word to describe what they are was necessary.

But fanboy? No, just no. It’s a slang term to describe someone with too much time and disposable income on their hands. We already have words for that. Actual words. Which I will refrain from using here.

Including nonsense words in the dictionary will only give rise to an entire generation of children already trained to speak and write in nearly incomprehensible shorthand (that commercial where the kid talks back to the mom in text-speak comes to mind). While a certain amount of modern vernacular seeping into our culture is unavoidable, should we really be embracing such a downturn in language skills?

Since I began actively reading PR blogs, I’ve read countless posts braying about the downfall of good writing skills, particularly in students and young professionals. Want to know why? Among myriad reasons, it’s because the dictionary is telling them that “w00t” is a word.

Oh, listen to me. Fine, so maybe I am a high-brow language snob moaning about the downfall of humanity as a result of our collective declining grammatical abilities. Someone’s got to be, right?

The day “:-)” makes it in, I’m just going to have to brush up on my Spanish and go live with my in-laws in Peru.

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  1. robclark@theelusivefish.com'
    Rob Clark

    If the inclusion of ‘fanboy’, ‘w00t’ or even, ‘gosh’ ‘swell’ and ‘gee willikers’ meant that other “REAL WORDS”(tm) were being excluded, then I’d be with you on that.
    But I don’t look to the dictionary as a validation of a word, but rather as a tool to help me figure out just what the heck the general understanding of what a given word means.
    If I’m reading through some blog, then gosh gee willikers, I want my Merriam Websters to tell me what p0wnd means.
    The dictionary should be a tool to facilitate communication, not the gatekeeper of what the words are.

  2. swurrey@customscoop.com'
    Sarah Wurrey

    Rob – Excellent point. I do agree that dictionaries help facilitate communication, but I do also feel that with communication skills on the decline, especially among students and young people, it is important to emphasize that while slang terms have their place in the lexicon, they also aren’t “proper English.”
    /grammar snobbery
    Thanks for your comment!

  3. mistyfaucheux@msn.com'

    Sarah – I completely agree that slang does not belong in the dictionary. The dictionary should be reserved for proper words, not slang.

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  5. dam@blazemail.com'

    Agreed. I sought an article like this if there were any information stating if there were any dictionaries without any kind of slang in it. There’s a huge difference, words are words, and slang is slang. Words have the literal meaning while slang has a meaning that’s bent like iron to make a different definition.

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