Dot Wordsworth

Eurogeddon

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Collins dictionaries have invited people to send in a word for inclusion in its English dictionary. ‘If it’s accepted,’ the publishers say, ‘your word will be published on collinsdictionary.com within a few weeks, and your name will appear on the definition page where you will be recorded forever.’ Forever (usually written as two words in British English, except in the sense ‘incessantly’) is pitching it a bit strong. Eternity is an over-confident prediction of the internet’s durability, let alone that of Collins dictionaries.

It’s all nonsense of course. They just want publicity. The people at Collins do evaluate each word submitted, considering whether it is widespread and ‘how long it is likely to stay around for’. But they already have a corpus of 4.5 billion words. No doubt they monitor internet sites run on wiki principles, such as Urban Dictionary. The chances of an unnoticed widely used word being sent in from Chorley, Horley or Fawley are nil.

One submission highlighted was legbomb. This denotes an explosive display of leg, and originates from the performance of Angelina Jolie at the Oscar ceremony this year. Her right leg, poking out from her long dress, was transplanted by internet jokers on to the Statue of Liberty, Hitler or Adam being created. Very droll. But if you ask me, it’s a vogue word and will be gone faster than Jennifer Aniston.

Another suggestion is lollage, ‘use of lol, meaning “laugh out loud” ’. This is a nonce word, its meaning hardly discernible outside a discussion of lol. Or take mantyhose, ‘pantyhose for men’. It falls in the category of incomprehensible portmanteau word.

One word that will last a few years is eurogeddon, the meltdown of the euro. ‘The two largest economies in the world teeter on the brink of eurogeddon and dollargeddon,’ wrote Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian last July. In February 2010 the heavy snowfall in the eastern United States was billed as snowmageddon. Some newspapers preferred the less catchy snowpocalypse. Here we see a suffix (like –gate) that can be stuck on to words at will: Olympigeddon,  pensiongeddon, Synodgeddon, or Cleggeddon — the destruction of the coalition.