The Babbel Blog

language learning in the digital age

Save an endangered word, redefine the dictionary

Posted on October 6, 2008 by

I’ve always found it curious that the Americans have no centralized institution which establishes the end-all be-all of language. I mean, something along the lines of the German Rechtschreibungen, grammars that all of which incorporated a rather catastrophic spelling reform mandated by an official agreement between German-speaking countries in 1996. Or the Real Academia Española (the Royal Spanish Academy) which purports to maintain propriety, elegance, and purity in the Spanish language, and consistently has conferences all over Spain and Latin America deliberating which words are worthy of inclusion. The North American language, however, is a bit federated, you could say… if not Balkanized.

For the Brits, one of the closest things to language royalty – along with Oxford’s, of course – would be Collins’ Dictionary, which has recently gotten positively ruthless in cutting words it deems obsolete. The Times along with other linguistic luminaries have taken up the case to save “endangered” words from institutional oblivion, by using them in public, and so reviving them.

Meanwhile, an English website Wordia is taking a grassroots, let’s say Yankee, approach to the matter, redefining the dictionary itself by acknowledging the diversity and subjectivity of words. Not surprisingly, seems Rupert Murdoch is involved. Individual users upload their own video definitions of whatever word they choose, a “democratic” spirit that was recently critiqued by the Independent.

Above see one bloke’s take on “ineffable”.


Honestly I don’t see the reason to have an organization like that. By their nature languages are constantly evolving. Having a handful of academics deciding whether or not a new word is “pure” would be a waste of time in my opinion. Especially when it comes to languages like English, French and Spanish which are spoken in multiple countries around the world, how can one country dictate what is the pure language.

And example from here in Mexico would be the word Guey which in Mexico us used to mean “dude”. It is very commonly used word. In the rest of the Spanish speaking world it simply means a male bull. Which is purer? Mexico has the largest population of Spanish speakers in the world, so does a larger number make it correct?

Thanks. Changed it.

That’s Collins’ Dictionary, not Collin’s Dictionary.

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