Oxford Dictioinaries Online
A screenshot of the Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO) website entry for the word "bibimbap" taken on August 10, 2012.
Tiger Mother (noun) : a strict or demanding mother who pushes her children to high levels of achievement, using methods regarded as typical of childrearing in China and other parts of East Asia
Guyliner (noun): eyeliner that is worn by men
Whovian (noun): a fan of the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who
These are just three of the new words to enter the Oxford Dictionaries Online. The ODO adds new words every three months; this last batch took place in May. For culture watchers, it is mostly significant because it confirms our obsession with food, including where it comes from (both locavore and frankenfood made the cut).
The ODO is a sort of more hip and current version of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Some of the words that the ODO adopts might eventually make their way into the older, established OED but many do not.
“Another way of looking at it is that it’s a place where you put words that you know are interesting right now ... One of the advantages of online dictionaries is that you can put things in, you are not limited by space reasons. So as soon as you think anyone is going to care at all you can put it in,” said Jesse Sheidlower, editor-at-large of the Oxford English Dictionary.
There is not a set process for what makes it in or not. Sheidlower says the most important thing is that a word is part of the real language that is being used by someone. Once a word makes it in to the media or starts popping up frequently online, the ODO will consider it.
Don’t worry, for those of you ready to bemoan the degraded quality of the English language. Whatevs, obvs, and jeggings are now legal Scrabble options, provided you play with the ODO as your dictionary of choice.
Jesse Sheidlower, editor-at-large of the Oxford English Dictionary; one of the foremost authorities on obscenity in English; he has written about language for the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, Slate, and Esquire.