OMG! The OED [Hearts] A Few New Words

PHOTO "FYI" (for your information), "LOL" (laughing out loud) and "OMG" (oh my god) are all now formally recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the worlds principal English-language dictionaries.PlayABC News
WATCH 'OMG', 'LOL' Added to OED

OMG, the Oxford English Dictionary has announced its latest updates!

The authoritative reference book -- the final word on words -- has announced that it has updated its online edition with 1,900 revisions and adds from across the dictionary. New additions include such digitally-driven abbreviations such as OMG -- Internet shorthand for "Oh my God'" or "Oh my Gosh" -- LOL, "laughing out loud"; IMHO "in my humble opinion"; and BFF, "best friends forever."

One might be tempted to exclaim WTF? (And if you don't know what that stands for, you can look it up: it was included in the 2009 updates.)

"Technology has been one of the biggest drivers of new vocabulary for centuries," Jesse Sheidlower, editor at large for the O.E.D., told ABC News.

"The proportion of words that entered the English language from 1750 to 1760 is almost exactly the same as words that entered the language from 1950 to 1960," he added. "You look around and you have new laptops and new cell phones today. One hundred fifty years ago we had new trains and new steam engines."

Also included in the updates is a new usage of an old word: heart. Taken from the symbol <3, to "heart" something is to love it. (Suggested usage: "I heart the fact that this is in the O.E.D.") The symbol itself, however, did not make it into the dictionary, as reported elsewhere.

Other words that are new to the dictionary are food-based slang, such as "flat white" -- a type of coffee drink -- and the expression "muffin top," an evocative description for the "protuberance of flesh above the waistband of a tight pair of trousers."

Popular culture, explained Sheidlower, is another major driver of new vocabulary. But the dictionary's editors insist they are hardly indiscriminate. Once a word makes it in, it is never removed even if it becomes antiquated -- the purpose of the O.E.D. is to exist as a comprehensive, living history of the language.

"If we really thought a word would vanish, we'd hold off [including it] for a while," said Sheidlower. "Year after year there are tons of new Internet terms -- slang or terms from text messaging -- that we may not use for more than a few months."

"Meep," Yes; "Meh," Maybe Later

So don't expect to see "Rickrolling" or "meh" in the current batch of updates, for example. But don't rule them out for good either, said Sheidlower.

The O.E.D. says it adds thousands of words a year. And as a unique sign of our texty, Twittery times, 2011 seems especially heavy on "initialisms," or abbreviations consisting of the initial letters of a name or expression. Also included were FYI ("for your information"), TMI ("too much information") and WAG ("wives and girlfriends").

Interestingly, OMG, while commonly associated with the Internet era, has in fact been around for a lot longer: The first confirmed use was in a letter dated 1917. More recently, we can "ego-surf" (search for your own name online), but you might be dismayed by the results if you're primarily associated with a "dot bomb," or a failed Internet company.

"We always have more words to put in than we have time to," said Sheidlower. The current crop, for example, includes "party-crasher," which Sheidlower said dates to the 1920s, and "meep," the sound the Roadrunner makes -- which has actually appeared as far back in literature as H.P. Lovecraft, "the least-Roadrunner author you can imagine," said Sheidlower.

"La-la land" can refer either to Los Angeles, or to a state of being out of touch with reality. Or both. And that's not just "smack talk" (boastful or insulting banter), surely a charge we'd never level at a venerable dictionary that so earnestly strives to "drill-down" (yep, also a new update) on our language.

For a more complete list of new and updated words, check out the O.E.D. online.