'Yada Yada' Makes the Dictionary

What do "yada yada," "hactivist" and "dust bunny" all have in common? Not a whole lot, other than the fact that they are three of the newest words in the Oxford English Dictionary's latest online update.

The century-old dictionary is getting a major renovation to reflect the changing way of words in the English language.

"We are going through the entire dictionary word for word and updating every single entry as well as adding about 250 new words every quarter," said Jesse Sheidlower, the editor-at-large for the North America division.

The revised online edition provides thousands of new words that aren't even found in the supplement packets for the antiquated 1976 print version of the dictionary.

So if you want to add a word, how does it work?

"The only criteria for getting a word added is if it is being used or not," Sheidlower said. " If it's out there, even if it's vulgar and non-grammatical, it will go in."

Included in the dictionary is "pissing contest," noun, defined as a competition to see who can urinate the furthest or highest (most likely submitted by a group of teenage boys).

And more common words like "plan b," "counterterrorism" and "plasma TV" also made the latest update.

Also new to the OED is the latest way to find love through something called "speed dating," n., a process by which people seeking romantic relationships attend organized events at which they have a short conversation with each of several potential partners.

Maybe that will lead to an air kiss (verb) assumming the girl doesn't have a blonde moment (adj) -- both of which are also new words in the dictionary.

Most of the entries come from Oxford lexicographers who are constantly reading a wide variety of books, newspapers and blogs to find out what words people are using. When they find a new word, they analyze its usage to determine if it will be included in the dictionary.

Keeping It Current

The English language is constantly expanding, creating the need for frequent updates and revisions.

"Words mean what they do because of how they are currently used, not how they were used 500 years ago, and not how they were used in Latin 2000 years ago," Sheidlower said.

"The most common additions come from the science fiction field, technology words and hip hop," said Donald Myers, of the OED.

He says the dictionary currently has more than 600,000 words, but the editors have agreed to never take a word out -- on the basis that even obsolete terms might be relevant to someone years later.

"We are the only complete record of the language from the 1500s on," Myers said.

As for "yada yada," "hactivist" and "dust bunny" -- if you don't already know what they mean, you'll have to look them up.