Date: Wed, 20 May 1998 16:49:44 EDT
From: AAllan
Subject: Among the New Words

The chair of the ADS New Words Committee and conductor of the column "Among
the New Words" in American Speech, Wayne Glowka, isn't on ADS-L; but he has
this response to Tom Paikeday's posting of the other day.


I have already had some correspondence with Paikeday about this subject.
He has been concerned with some comment made by Jesse Sheidlower that
Paikeday's method of coverage was less thorough than the method that Jesse
has promoted of listing/recording everything that one comes across.

John Algeo counseled me to run with the latest words even if I had only one
citation so that the column could keep ahead of the desk dictionaries,
which now have active new word editors and come out in newer editions
faster than "Among the New Words" can get to press. A case in point:
Jesse was able to get out new dictionary with "soccer mom" before we were
able to get out the article with the same word.

After some discussion with Connie Eble and Ron Butters, I adopted Ron's
belief that "Among the New Words" is never out of date. Jesse can't list
citations; we can. Freed of that pressure, I have been dipping into the
files that I now have and citing words that may now even be obsolete after
five years--like the one you noted yesterday. I am more interested now in
thematic installments rather than in "coverage"--which, as Samuel Johnson
learned, is impossible.

One could run round and round in this argument for a long time. Paikeday's
suggestion about three independent citations is arbitrary but useful in
saving the editor a lot of work and a lot of paper. Electronic searching,
however, makes it very easy to find three independent citations. When I
was following John's suggestion of keeping ahead of the dictionaries, I was
trying to cite as many words as possible and did not always print all of
the citations available because of space.

It's all a question of what we want: a lot of words or a lot of quotes.
Whatever the case, outside of a hundred or so basic words in our language
the other millions seem to come and go with time and tide and place.

I imagine that a widely used term like "soccer mom" will be as
indecipherable as "bees knees" forty years from now. However, we will have
it and words like "cyberize" on record for some future harmless drudge's

If you feel that it is appropriate to share this note with the list, please
feel free to do so.

Wayne Glowka