The business world is full of jargon—created by the elite, who wanted to stand apart, and then picked up and repeated by those who wanted to belong. As annoying as many of them are, these sayings tend to hang around.
But the buzzwords of tech come and go fast, and acronyms replace even the shortest terms. So what makes some words stick well enough to become officially recognized by the world’s leading word authority—the Oxford English Dictionary?
“Words often enter the lexicon when they identify or describe something that has previously not existed (or not existed in our knowledge base)—or when our understanding of that ‘something’ has significantly changed,” explained Dr. Kathleen Koch, Professor, University of Maryland University College (UMUC), in an interview with Mobile Enterprise.
This is especially true when it comes to technology where words are not just invented but reclassified or redefined (think Google, Tweet, friend, like and so on…). Why does technology in particular lend itself to new words? “Technology's rapid rate of innovation and enhancement (the never-ending upgrade) makes it a particularly fertile field for neologisms,” she said.
How a Word Becomes a Word—Officially
According to OED.com, the organization makes four updates to its online dictionary every year. Hundreds of suggestions from the public are considered, but beyond user suggestion, sourcing starts with “Corpus analysis,” “reading programme” and “editorial spotting.”
The next step is research, with the first question being: “Is it found in a variety of different sources and used by several different writers?” If the answer is no, then the word is usually rejected at that time and reserved for future consideration.
If the answer is yes, the next question is: “Is its use limited strictly to one group of users, e.g. young teenagers?” If the answer is yes, the process is same as above. If the answer is no, it moves on to: “Does it have a decent history of use and is it likely to stand the test of time?”
If yes, and not a trademark, the word or term goes to linguists who consult specialists if need be, then moves to OED editors for dates and origination, an entry is drafted and reviewed, and that’s how a word becomes a word—officially—online. There is a waiting time—“due course”—to be non-exact, before the entry is added to the book.
The most recent update to OED.com included several tech terms shown in bold below. The others on the list are new in the past full year. Each definition is the one provided by the OED. (Editor’s note: Since BYOD is now an official word, it can no longer be considered a business trend. Let’s drop that qualifier from all future discussions.)
Incidentally, when it comes to language, what affect is mobile technology having on the way people communicate? Dr. Koch puts this in context of her students—the future mobile workers.
Bitcoin: a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank
BYOD: the practice of allowing the employees of an organization to use their own computers, smartphones, or other devices for work purposes
Cyberchondriac: a person who compulsively searches the Internet for information about particular real or imagined symptoms of illness
Dumpphone: a basic mobile phone that lacks the advanced functionality characteristic of a smartphone
Digital Detox: a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world
Hackathon: an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming
Internet of things: a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data
Phablet: a smartphone having a screen which is intermediate in size between that of a typical smartphone and a tablet computer
Ransomeware: a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid
Srsly: abbreviation for seriously; from the late 18th century: first recorded in a manual on shorthand
“In my experience, the impact of mobile technology on student communication has been a double-edged sword: The downside is evidenced when students use text-language at inappropriate times (for instance, in formal assignments: ‘R U thru?’); the upside, however, which bodes well for business (business communication, at any rate), is that students are becoming skilled at brevity of expression—a solid asset in the fast-paced, time-is-money world of business today,” she explained.
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