A nearly 200-year-old dictionary wants you to help build its bank of words.
And by you, I mean anyone who speaks English.
Wait, it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Collins Dictionary, an imprint of HarperCollins UK, this morning unveiled a crowdsourcing initiative in which the public is invited to submit words for potential inclusion on CollinsDictionary.com.
“It was essential that we keep our ear close to the ground listening out for new words emerging from pop culture, science, and technology,” Alex Brown, head of digital at Collins, said in a press release. “Most dictionaries are static. By allowing the public to truly participate, we’re ensuring that we stay on top of the evolving English language.”
The editors will evaluate the user submissions just as they would any other coinage under consideration, said Brown, who spoke with PR Daily via phone. The process includes checking a word’s frequency of use, number of sources, and staying power in Collins’ database of about 4.5 billion words.
“We already have our system for logging new words,” Brown said. “The idea was wouldn’t it be interesting to open up the whole previously closed process.”
If a submission is approved, it will appear in the online dictionary and, possibly, the print version, along with the name of the person who submitted it. Collins online dictionary has about 300,000 entries, and the print edition, which has been around since 1819, has about 220,000, due to space restrictions.
To encourage the process, through Aug. 31 Collins is offering a prize a day; people who submit entries are included in a daily drawing. Collins is also reaching out to bloggers, celebrities, and writers to rally behind a word they want to see in the dictionary.
“We know people are passionate about the preservation and evolution of the English language, and we want to tap into that as new words continue to capture the public imagination,” Brown said in the release.
What about those who are so passionate they believe such a project could undermine the English language, turning the guardians of language into little more than dictionary doormen?
Brown said it’s a valid criticism, but he added that not all the words submitted will make it into the dictionary.
One criterion for inclusion could be user feedback. At CollinsDictionary.com, there is a space for visitors to share their thoughts about words that others have submitted, much like in the comments section of a blog post or online article.
For instance, one of the words editors will consider is “tweeps.” A commenter pleaded with Collins to not include that word, a bit of feedback that Brown said he found particularly interesting.
“We’re certainly not urban dictionary,” he said, “and we don’t want to be; the value of [our dictionary] is that we add the extra level of research.”
He added: “This is new for us. It will be a learning experience.”
Here are 15 words that Collins editors are reviewing (or “investigating,” as they call it):
Legbomb – when a person, usually a celebrity, shows off a lot of leg.
Cray – commonly used by rappers such as Jay-Z and Kanye West to mean crazy.
Yolo – a word used by R&B artist Drake to mean “you only live once.”
Tebowing – to drop to a knee as if you’re praying in the nature of NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.
Omnishambles – something which is completely and continuously in shambles.
Creeping – pursuing women in a nightclub.
Mantyhose – tights for men.
Tweeps – Twitter users.
Twitlit – poems, sayings, and aphorisms that debuted on Twitter and adhere to its 140-character limit.
Carmageddon – a state of extreme traffic congestion.
Trendfear – the anxiety that you are not up to date on certain trends.
Gazanging – when a property seller pulls the plug at the last minute, leaving the buyer hanging.
Photobombing – appearing at the back of someone else’s photograph without their realizing it, so they are surprised when they see the photo.
Lollage – use of the phrase “lol” meaning “laugh out loud.”
Amazeballs – amazing.
Not all of the words are so… nontraditional. Collins editors have also approved words such as “occupy,” “insourcing,” and “livestream.”
You can submit a word here.