Monday, 12 November 2007

The New Collins Dictionary is out!

Just as the day is always followed by night, the release of a new updated Collins dictionary is always – inevitably! - followed by controversy. While the outcries that have come after recent publications have not matched the riots and uproar that occurred during 1976 (when the dictionary ruled that ‘cactus’ was no longer a word and that the past participle of ‘run’ was ‘graven’) there have always been a few out-of-joint noses whenever Collins go to press.

This year will certainly be no different. The Imaginary Review has got its grubby little hands on an advance copy and linguists everywhere are going to be affected by the contents. In fact, anyone who uses the English language on a regular basis will certainly need to pay heed.

One of the major changes to the English dictionary is the removal of the word ‘Because’. The reasoning behind this remains mysterious; we asked a Collins representative why they had deemed the word unnecessary, and they replied that they ‘didn’t need to explain themselves’. Our own guess at why this word is no longer part of the English language is due to the fact that people have stopped trying to explain and excuse things, they just pass the buck on to someone else. The lack of the word ‘because’ will certainly make things much more difficult for people to explain events.

A new word that the people at Collins have introduced is ‘Crotny’. It is an adjective that refers to the unpleasant feeling one gets when a commercial break arrives in a TV program and it only seems like two minutes since the last. Other additions include ‘flad’ - an attractive female who is often mistaken for a ladyboy – and ‘yopling’, an activity that requires as-yet uninvented equipment.

Collins 2008 has some interesting new prescriptions. ‘Terse’ can no longer be translated into Spanish, and not before time if you ask me. ‘Shower’ and ‘Hovercraft’ have now swapped definitions, a move that will probably cause more problems in Dover than anywhere else. ‘Buffoon’ now has the added definition, ‘a small area of carpet infested with estate agents’.

While the people at Collins claim to have the best interests of the English language at heart, it is somewhat unclear as to how their new dictionary will achieve any advancement for the language or its speakers. Removing ‘because’ from usage will certainly lessen the depth and clarity that English has. Furthermore, the novel new idea of ‘sin-binning’ some words for various perceived penalties is not without its drawbacks; what good can come of banning the words ‘hedgehog’, ‘alimony’ and ‘gumption’ for two years?

On the plus side, however, the book has some good new touches, including the inclusion of page numbers that advance upwards from ‘one’, and also some vouchers for reduced entry into various attractions. But these benefits are outweighed by some questionable decisions in the content.

The 2008 Collins Dictionary is out now, priced a few quid. If you want one with a thesaurus, you must provide a video of you kicking a Spaniard in the shins.

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