juste a mot

William Hartston
Monday 14 August 1995 23:02

Was Majorism a natural consequence of excessive Maggiolatry? Could Blairism be little more than the Clintonisation of the Labour Party? And will the italicised neologisms live long enough to earn their places in a reputable dictionary? Or are they doomed to vanish into the technological ether with the ramblings of the Interneterati?

Thanks to the resources of Chambers Dictionaries, we shall, on alternate Tuesdays in this space, be offering a glimpse of some new words entering the language, among the 400 or so identified each month by their team of word-surfing readers. Stored in a programme called WordTrack, they are the raw material for any new edition of a dictionary.

With around 300,000 definitions already and a new edition about every five years, there could, at the current rate, be more than 20,000 new words vying for space next time, but most will fail the strict criteria for inclusion. The first general requirement is more than three citations, but even then a word must be "considered to have passed into general language". That is where subjectivity is inevitable. The word "birrova", as in "it was just a birrova laugh", has already bagged a space on the slow lane of WordTrack, with a single citation dated May 1995. Not enough yet to warrant consideration for the dictionary, but what about "lorra" as in the tabloid headline: "Worra Lorra Idiots" recently spotted above a piece about Miss Cilla Black and the contestants on a televisual delectation called Blind Date? Our own database, covering a wide range of daily and Sunday national newspapers, offers no fewer than 19 instances of worra and a staggering 209 lorras. But will they make the next edition of Chambers? You can betcha life there'd be a birrova fuss if they did.


Majorism: (1993) tentatively defined as: "The political and economic policies of the British Conservative politician, John Major". Not tipped to last.

Interneterati: (1994) one of many words modelled on literati (which dates from the 17th century), including Briterati, glitterati, flasherati (flashy dressers) and digerati (1995: dealers in digital information).

Word-surfing: (The Independent, today), modelled on netsurfing (of the Interneterati),, channel-surfing (TV), mouth-surfing (hot foods) and even zeitgeist-surfing, which may be impossible without drugs.

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