warrior_croppedJumpsquiffling 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.

class _____
culture _____
keyboard _____
road _____
weekend _____

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

This had rather positive connotations – it goes with ‘brave’, ‘mighty’ ‘noble’ and ‘valiant’ but now we need to add a new sense which is much more disparaging:

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:

the district or jurisdiction of a bailie or bailiff:
The warden had the right to arrest all poachers found within his bailiwick.

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.

Is there a word or phrase you would like to see featured as Word of the Month? It should be something that is new to the language or something that is being used in a new way. If you have a suggestion, please leave a comment. (All comments will need to be approved before they appear on the site.)

One thought on “Warrior

  1. Being a Nigerian learning English as second language, I am really improving and updating my English via your this website which I discovered just two weeks ago.
    In fact, I have made it part of my daily schedule to visit the website. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary is simply doing a great and wonderful job, especially for us learning English as second language outside the ‘home of English’.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s