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Friday Reads: Is “Twerk and Squee” the New “Twist and Shout”?

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I’m only 29, yet I feel like an old man because I didn’t know what “twerking” was until this week. It turns out it’s not the only word I wasn’t aware of until now.

According to a blog post at Oxford Dictionaries Online, several words were added to Oxford Dictionaries this week. The most notable ones include “twerk,” “squee,” and “bitcoin.” The ODO also added some popular internet acronyms, including “tl;dr” and “FOMO.” And don’t forget my personal favorite: “MOOC.”

Another addition: “digital detox.” It’s been a part of the lexicon for a while, but it’s now somewhat official.

Here’s the justification for adding these words, from the blog post:

The additions may have only just entered the dictionary, but we’ve been watching them for a while now, tracking how and where they are used. Two of the words to make their debut in the dictionary, selfie and phablet both featured on our Words on the radar post back in June 2012. At the time, selfie featured primarily in social media contexts, but had attracted media attention after Hillary Clinton apparently used the word in a text message to the owner of a Tumblr dedicated to an image of her texting.

While the ODO isn’t as official as the Oxford English Dictionary (which hasn’t added these words, yet some bloggers erroneously claim it has) it still holds some weight. As words get used regularly, whether informally or not, they represent important aspects of what is valued in our culture.

Right now, it seems internet culture is the driving force of language change. This explains why language is changing so rapidly, and it mirrors other fast changes in slang from previous times of change in print and communication.

Recent studies show sites like Twitter and Reddit are spurring on these changes. Since we spend so much time on social media sites, it’s no wonder these language changes make their way to how we communicate.

And that’s not a bad thing, it just means the way we communicate is changing, once again. Even though I feel like an old man, I’m OK with embracing changes in words and communication styles as pop culture changes.

About Kevin Eagan

Kevin Eagan (@criticalmargins) is a freelance editor, writer, and teacher who lives in Central Florida. He edits book manuscripts and articles for local and national publications. In addition to writing about book technology and teaching college students how to write, Kevin works as an associate editor for punctum books. Previously, he was the books editor for Blogcritics. You can also follow him on Google+ or check out his professional website, KevinThomasEagan.com.