Jumpsquiffling whoopsy-splunkers* are not the latest new words to be added to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary! Alas, we who work on dictionaries for learners of English don’t get to gobblefunk with words like our colleagues in Children’s Dictionaries. Lickswishy as these words may be, we can’t really claim that they have much of a life outside Roald Dahl’s stories. But it’s interesting that although he invented so many wonderful-sounding words, they are usually made up of recognizable bits of existing language, so that children don’t have too much difficulty in working out what they might mean.
And it’s true that most of the ‘new’ words we add to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary are not ‘new’ in the sense of ‘never-been-seen-before’. Very often they are new uses of old words, or new combinations of existing words. We’ve recently added a cluster of compounds to the OLD website, and these new expressions all contain the same old word.
The word that follows all of these is ‘warrior’ – hardly a 21st century concept, you might think, but popping up all over and causing us to add a new sense to the entry. We already have a historical definition:
(especially in the past) a person who fights in a battle or war
a person who leads or takes part in a campaign for a political or social cause, especially in an aggressive way that other people disapprove of
These social justice warriors want to apply their politically correct standards and rules to others’ speech.
But why such an old-fashioned word as ‘warrior’? Well, I’m afraid I don’t know – that’s a bit out of my bailiwick. Oh yes – bailiwick – another old word that is enjoying a new life in a metaphorical sense. The corpus shows us that the historical use is now extremely rare – unless you live on the Channel Islands, you’re unlikely to hear it as in the meaning given in the native-speaker dictionary as:
But over recent years it has become much more common thanks to increased use of the figurative sense, so that’s what we’re adding to the dictionary:
somebody’s particular area of responsibility or interest
So it’s not just eco-warriors who reduce, reuse and recycle. It seems we do it with words too – two words from Middle English alive and well in the 21st century.
*Jumpsquiffling, whoopsy-splunkers, gobblefunk, and lickswishy are all words invented by the children’s author Roald Dahl, and explained in the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary published in June 2016.
About the author: Margaret Deuter is a managing editor in the ELT Dictionaries department at Oxford University Press. She taught English in Germany and the United States before becoming a lexicographer in 1991 to work on monolingual and bilingual learners’ dictionaries.
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