In March, OED Online announced it would add LOL, FYI, OMG and — let me get this right — ♥ (that’s a heart symbol, for which read “love” as a verb). Many word snobs have decried these additions. Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post growls:
“I’m all for staying hip and relevant… The Oxford English Dictionary, on the other hand, is supposed to have dignity. It is supposed to enshrine the words that actually mean things. Just because people are using these words doesn’t mean that they deserve to be in the dictionary.”
She goes on, slicing wittily: “You are the Oxford English Dictionary. Do you know what that means? That means that you are never, ever going to be invited to the hip afterparties, no matter what you do or how many asinine “initialisms” you say are words. You are not going to get to hang with Miley. You are a dictionary, and you are supposed to be a watchdog of language, not the one handing ID’s to every silly neologism so they can slip past the bouncers. Stop trying to be cool and do your job.”
Now, normally I would hold my nose in the air, extend my pinky from my Château Haut-Brion and nod vigorously, but you know, this is the OED‘s job. Grade school teachers decry the use of ain’t. Should we excise it from the official lexicon? Is the chocolate ration still five grams?
English has become the world’s language, peppering speech in almost every nation and readily borrowing in kind. English succeeds because it grows and flows to fill the needs of its speakers — maybe because we don’t have a watchdog group like l’Académie française. Such arbiters of right and wrong tend to stifle innovation and exploration. I know, Lexicide derides what some of you call innovation (I call it ignorance — there’s a difference). But if you want proof that FYI needs a dictionary entry, read my article about folks who think it stands for “just in case.”
So carry on, OED. We ♥ you.