Ellen Skonce

In August of 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary Online announced some of the words they intended to add to the dictionary in its quarterly update, including:  “selfie – n. a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website;” “srsly – adverb, short for seriously;”  “twerk – v. dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance;” and, my personal favorite, “derp – exclamation, used as a substitute for speech regarded as meaningless or stupid, or to comment on a foolish or stupid action.”

Whenever I tell people about these new “official” words, I generally get the same reaction: “The English language is dying.” “The world is becoming void of culture.” “People are so dumb.” I will admit, when I first heard some of the new words, I, too, had that mentality. Like the people around me, I thought that these new words were detracting from the English language rather than adding to it.

However, the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that there is no harm in having a dictionary definition for the word “selfie,” which I am almost certain that all of us have used at one time or another. After the infamous performance that Miley Cyrus gave at the VMAs this past month, it is almost impossible to use the Internet without coming across the word “twerk” a few times. Even “derp” has found a place in this world, as many of us have probably muttered it under our breaths about people in our class discussions. These words are already in our every day vocabulary, so why is it so wrong to legitimize them?

The world is in a constant state of change, and with these changes come evolutions in language. There were probably college students who were annoyed when words like “Internet” and “website” first made their way into the Oxford English Dictionary. I’m sure that plenty of scholars in Shakespeare’s time were annoyed that so many of the Bard’s made-up words made their way into everyday life. Heck, there were probably some people who were annoyed by the Great Vowel Shift from the 15th to the 18th centuries! In an ever-changing world with ever-changing language, it is crucial to accept change with open arms and an open mind.

The purpose of language is to communicate. Sure, it would be nice to communicate our thoughts in an eloquent and sophisticated manner, but as long as these thoughts can be conveyed from one person to another, then language is doing its job. Soo lyke dont b that guy who is all “omg ur illiterate” on facebook b/c it’s n informal website n ppl rnt tryin to be grammatically correct all da time. Altho id suggest not typin like dis b/c employers will look at you and be all “smh.” Srsly.

Whether or not we want it to, language is always changing. It is up to us to decide whether we want to stay grounded in our ways and live in the past or accept and embrace the changes so that we can all just move on with our lives and speak the lingo of the 21st century. Don’t be that guy who refuses to know the meaning of the word “twerk.” You’ll look like a derp.

Ellen Skonce is a Staff Writer for the Voice and can be reached for comment at ESkonce15@wooster.edu