‘Bovvered’ to enter the dictionary

October 13, 2006

“Catherine Tate’s catchphrase “bovvered” is set to enter the dictionary. The word, made famous by Catherine’s character Lauren, has been named word of the year in The Language Report.” Shows how out of touch I am- never heard of the word, the person or her character. It is among 500 words being considered for inclusion in the December edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. An OED spokesman said: “Bovvered has taken over from ‘whatever’ as the signature phrase of teenagers.” Other words set to be included are ‘Nang’ meaning cool and ‘Flashpacking’ meaning affluent backpacking. Whether it’s worth putting in a lot of new words that will probably go out of fashion in another six months is another question.
The OUP website lists the ‘Words of the Year’ selcted in “larpers and shroomers” by Susie Dent. They include:
1905 whizzo    1909 tiddly-om-pom-pom    1926 kitsch    1941 snafu
1945 mobile phone     1950 brainwashing         1961 awesome     1965 miniskirt
1971 green     1974 punk         1989 latte        1993 have it large
2003 sex up    2004 chav

Each of them, as OUP point out, says something about the preoccupations of their time. I’m intrigued to find out that I am a retrosexual. There, that’s me out of the closet.


2 Responses to “‘Bovvered’ to enter the dictionary”

  1. SilverTiger Says:

    The dictionary business is a peculiar one. The use and purpose of a dictionary seems straightforward until you try to define it. Then it seems less than clear. This was brought home to me when, as a young language student doing translation exercises, I realized how unhelpful and even misleading dictionaries could be.

    No dictionary, even the best, can do more than make a sketch of the language. People use dictionaries as authorities to support their arguments about meaning when it should be the other way about: use the language to judge the accuracy of the dictionary. Words mean what their users think they mean, not what Shakespeare meant by them when he wrote Hamlet. Discovering the earliest published occurrence of “serendipitous” and reporting it to the OED editorial board may be fun, but its usefulness is less certain.

    The question about words like “bovvered” is not so much “Should they be included?” as “Why leave out hundreds of similar words?” Should there be an Equal Opportunities Commission for words?

  2. Hmm. A Google search reveals Catherine Tate to be on a BBC show, so that explains why I haven’t heard of her or “bovvered.” I’ve also never heard “nang” or “flashpacking,” so I’m assuming these are all British English words.

    I have a copy of the OED compressed into two volumes of tiny type (it came with its own magnifying glass), and it’s fascinating to look through and examine the many words I’ve never heard and read their origins. I do think there’s something to be said for a book that tries to accumulate any and all English words; the OED is then a sort of time capsule of language, capturing our spoken language (even if some of those words come and go in a matter of months).

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