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New words in the Oxford English Dictionary

April 7, 2011 - Andrea Johnson
Academics have invented a host of new words since I last darkened the doors of a college classroom in the early 1990s.

"Heteronormative," a word coined in the 1990s or early 2000s, is the assumption that male-female marriage and relations are what is normal and privileged in society. People who use the word generally consider being "heteronormative" a bad thing, as people who are gay, transgender or bisexual are presumed to have lesser rights or privileges in a heteronormative culture.

"Heteronormative" is one of several new words being added this year to the Oxford English Dictionary, which means it's been used a fair amount in the past year, probably in articles about the passage or defeat of gay marriage bills and the end of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law.

I haven't seen "cisgender," another favorite word of far-left women's and gender studies professors in the Ivy League, on the OED list, though I've seen it here and there in the last year. "Cisgender" is basically the opposite of "transgender" and refers to a person who feels that he or she was born in the right gendered body and doesn't want a sex change operation.

The word was coined by a transgendered man in an online forum in 1995, though I didn't see it used until 2010. If it catches on, maybe it will appear in the OED next year.

Also new to the OED in 2011 is "rumspringa," or the season when Amish young people get to run wild before settling down to be baptized and join the Amish Church or deciding to cut ties with the Amish Church forever. The only reason I know about "rumspringa" is that's it's been a plot point on several cliched TV cop shows.

Rumspringa sounds like a good idea, since maybe once the Amish teens have sowed all their wild oats they'll be less likely to feel they've missed out on fun when they're plowing the fields or hitching up the wagon or sitting in long hours of church. The Amish know something about the psychology of adolescents.

I'm not familiar with some of the other new words in the OED, like "rugelach," which is apparently a Jewish pastry, or "fnarr fnarr," which the OED explains is "a representation of a lecherous snigger popularized in the comic magazine Viz and used adjectivally to denote crude sexual innuendo".

"Tinfoil hat" is being added too, though that seems so last year to me. Everyone was using it a few years ago. Now it sounds cliched, though maybe that's the point at which it is deemed worthy of the OED.

"Tinfoil hat" is still a perfectly good word and many of us can probably think of someone who might be wearing one.


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