Thursday, 18 October 2007

The Oxford English Dictionary … of ROCK

I love the English language. Even when I’m not speaking it, I use it for thinking or for writing a blog. But I’m not sure I love it as much as Sir James Murray, who constructed the Oxford English Dictionary in his garden shed at 78 Banbury Road.

Murray took historical usage, rather than any arbitrary notion of what counts as English, as the basis for choosing entries. As a result, the dictionary, currently about five times as fat as its French counterpart, is still updating, adding neologisms every three months. This is why, quarterly, following a “light-hearted think-piece” in the broadsheet press, we can arm ourselves with the fact that “Ghetto-fabulous is a real word now,” a comment which is sure to light up any dinner-party or private funeral.

My favourite words tend to be the rude ones. Used judiciously, they can spice up polite conversation. What’s new for fall? Cock-blocker:

cock-blocker n. coarse slang (orig. and chiefly U.S.) a person who cock-blocks

2004 R. BYRNES Trust Fund Boys 272 You're compounding things by being a cock-blocker.

Back to the point: OED is also my preferred tool for keeping up with the latest pop trends. NME and Pitchfork are constantly inventing new musical genres, but how am I to know what it all means, especially when Barrington Ennui, the bassist out of Burning Wednesday’s Veil, keeps saying his band isn’t really math-emo at all?

In a new series, maybe starting tomorrow, GMS casts a critical eye over the cutting-edge types of pop that youngsters are playing these days with their key-tars. Will ringtone rap get the OED seal of approval? Can glitch-tronica be defined? Any takers for Morrissey-esque? Can words describe the sheer um-ness of In Rainbows? You’ll have to wait and see.

Magnetic Fields – ‘All My Little Words’ (from 69 Love Songs)

Black Star – ‘Definition’ (from Mos Def and Talib Kweli are … Black Star)

Buy 69 Love Songs

Buy Black Star

1 comment:

floodwatch said...

I think "um-ness" should be a candidate, actually.

Geeking out on the English languages rules. The Chicago Manual of Style is pretty much my bible.