Should “Tweeps” Be in the Dictionary? Collins Dictionary to Let the Internet Decide

By Devon Glenn 

OMG and amazeballs! HarperCollins is accepting social media and pop culture words for inclusion in the Collins English Dictionary, which has already welcomed LOL and other Internet-inspired gems to the fold. Starting July 17, you’ll have six weeks to nominate your favorites.

Whereas sites like Wikipedia and the Urban Dictionary harness the wisdom of the crowds to keep an up-to-the-minute record of searchable vocabulary words, the Collins Dictionary maintains its integrity through a rigorous editorial process. By allowing Internet users to pitch words to the editors, said HarperCollins head of digital Alex Brown, “We’re opening up that editorial process” while “staying true to what our business is about.”

Brown added that during the selection process, Collins editors pass “no aesthetic judgment” on the word itself — theirs is a “research-based approach.” Sifting through a database of books, newspapers, Internet articles, and spoken word recordings, the researchers look for each word’s frequency of use, length of time in circulation, and whether it is broadly used or part of a niche subject domain. The job “requires linguistic knowledge,” he said, like whether a word is a noun or a verb, and how it should be pronounced.

HarperCollins has already tested the process in the UK, where reality TV shows and regional politics similarly influence vocabulary across the pond. So far, they’ve come up with words like “phubbing,” the act of snubbing your friends by “looking at your phone instead paying attention.” Also in the running is “dolphinicity,” or “the warm feeling of happiness and love for all, that overcomes humans when in the proximity of wild dolphins.”

To help the contest go viral, the publishers will invite celebrities, who are often responsible for coining new slang terms, to claim and promote their own words.

Participants can also get credit for submitting a word first.  To enter, log in to the Collins Dictionary website through Facebook, Twitter, or email to submit your word and its definition, and then share your choice with your Twitter followers under the hashtag #WhatsYourWord. If the word makes it into the dictionary, so does your handle.

Said Brown, the idea is “to make it accessible and to help people get behind words they really love.”

Image by EDHAR via Shutterstock.