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Dictionary adds NEW Sex words to latest Online version

posted 4/3/2008 10:13:04 PM |
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Dictionary Researchers Have Sex On The Brain

CHICAGO (TNA) – When revising the digital “Oxford English Dictionary” -- the most respected and humongous word book in the world -- editors don’t skimp on the filth.

During 2007’s quarterly updates, a boatload of sex-propelled terms were added, immortalizing the creations of sailors past while inspiring the potty-mouths of the future. These additions included “boink,” “cock-block,” “cooch,” “cooze,” “pube,” “put out,” “starfucker,” “tonsil hockey,” and “ya-yas.”

Author Henry Miller helped popularize dirty words like 'muff,' 'quim' and 'twat.'
Words don’t get entered willy-nilly. As Katherine Martin, a member of the New Words Group, says, all new terms must demonstrate “depth and breadth of documented history in English.” This is especially important since the OED is a historical dictionary, which means example sentences are quoted for every word to show its evolution.

Finding those examples is a little tricky when taboo words are involved: If you can’t say it in the newspaper, you can’t find it in the newspaper archive either.

That can be a dilemma for word researchers like Graeme Diamond, the principal editor of the New Words Group.

“One often has the feeling that a taboo word has been around quite a bit longer than the print record suggests, but without dateable, written evidence to back that up it's merely speculation,” he said.

Evidence is key: An OED reader may be convinced that his gran-gran said “starfucker” every day and twice on Sunday back in the 1950s, but, according to Martin, the OED can’t accept this information without a recorded use.

“Slang and taboo terms present a challenge in this respect because they are less likely to appear in mainstream print sources,” she said. “But we make a special effort to mine historical sources like diaries, letters, and manuscripts in order to trace the history of those items.”

One find that’s been particularly useful in the older-sleaze department is “My Secret Life,” an anonymous memoir from 1890 that’s quoted in entries for “cock,” “come,” “condom,” “fist-fuck,” “frig,” “nymph,” “randy,” and “spunk.” In fact, this juicy source contains the first known use of “spunk” as a euphemism for semen: “It seemed to me scarcely possible, that the sweet, well dressed, smooth-spoken ladies … could let men put the spunk up their cunts.”

Likewise, certain authors are better sources for slang than others, including some big names such as gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and sex-obsessed novelist Henry Miller.

Thompson is quoted in entries for “fist-fucker,” “fuck-off,” “gimp,” “hard-ass,” “mofo,” and “pussy-whipped,” while Miller gets cited for using “ass,” “boob,” “cunt,” “douche,” “horny,” “muff,” “pecker,” “prick,” “quim,” “twat,” and “whang.”

It’s not shocking that Miller and Thompson’s books provide a banquet of filth, but word research is rarely so predictable, and many words come to the attention of the OED by chance.

“I remember noticing myself that we didn’t have an entry for ‘coochie’ after the word happened to come up in conversation, and that led to ‘cooch’ and ‘cooze;’ a lot of suggestions arise in similar circumstances during our day-to-day work,” Martin said.

Some words are harder to research than others, such as “prevert” — a humorous respelling of “pervert” that has much in common with the non-sexual addition “puh-leeze.” Since “pervert” is also a common typo, it’s tricky trying to tell the jokes from the goofs.

“That was a challenge,” Martin admitted. “Ultimately, we relied on context to ensure that we found quotes representing a deliberate choice. ‘Puh-leeze’ was indeed easier to investigate, since it’s always a deliberate respelling.”

Among other things, the new entries show how language keeps changing. These days a “putz” is mainly an idiot, but back in 1934, Miller used the secondary sense when he wrote of a woman who “ought to have better sense than be tripped up by every guy with a big putz who happens to come along.”
Henry Miller Memorial Library
Hunter S. Thompson is credited with spreading words like 'fist-fucker,' 'mofo' and 'pussy-whipped' to the mainstream.

“Boink” made a different journey, going from comical to sexual. The first known use of “boink” was in 1963 and now sounds a lot skeevier than it was intended: “‘Oinks and boinks’ with Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo Bear.” Back then, “boink” meant something like a mix of “bonk” and “boing.” Despite how commonly “boink” is associated with sex now, its first known use in the sexual sense is only from 1986.

“First known use” is a phrase often used with the OED, because it’s impossible to know that the oldest available use is really the first use. Older examples are frequently found, and the OED solicits help from the public with their appeals list, which has helped build entries for “niplet” (a nipple) and “something for the weekend” (a euphemism for a condom), among other terms.

Also, participants in the BBC’s “Balderdash and Piffle” show have helped substantiate many terms, including the British slang word “dogging,” which means "the practice of gathering with other people in a public place, typically a car park, to watch or engage in exhibitionist sexual activity.”

To truly be “the definitive record of the English language,” as the OED rightfully claims to be, the wordsmiths will always need to keep track of X-rated, off-color, smutty English. Check out the next update on March {email address removed} to see what new naughty-isms made the cut.

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Dictionary adds NEW Sex words to latest Online version