There used to be a time when having collections of dictionaries and encyclopedias shelved throughout the basement or the reading room of a home used to be a point of distinction.
Forget the point that the “new generation” now simply uses spell check, Wikipedia, Google or Dictionary.com (although, now that it's been mentioned, there's probably the potential of that being a starting point for another column you eventually wished you didn't waste time reading).
This column is pointed toward the words in those dictionaries – not the material in which they're presented (that explanation almost seemed to smart to be included in this column).
Over the summer there have been two dictionary changes announced by “dictionary creators” that must leave the once scholarly-inclined dictionary/encyclopedia holders holding onto their post-21st century versions tighter by the second.
First word - an addition by Oxford Dictionaries:
Twerk - “A puny or insignificant person, generally male; a twerp; To twitch or jerk; To move the body in a sexually suggestive twisting fashion” (and now you're left as puzzled as I am with the decision).
The first two definitions reference this now “worldly-accepted” word as little more than a schoolyard insult thrown out amongst kidlings during a scuffle over who gets to kick the ball (when's dimwit making it into the dictionary?)
The third definition, well, I'm actually ok with that one.
But anyone who's seen the fourth definition in action – in the “Twerking” (also added to the Oxford dictionary) sense – must by now be feeling my pain.
For those unaware of the “twerking” craze, let me explain.
In “simple” terms – Twerking is not a dance typically performed during the orchestral performance at an esteemed tea party.
In “lay man's” terms – Twerking involves bending to the ground, gyrating the hips and “shaking the booty” in a sexually suggestive way either in the air or whilst making physical contact (aka grinding) against another individual.
In “realistic” terms – Any man who's had a lady “twerk” him is left wondering whether he should be slightly optimistic about his future opportunities or overly concerned that his dancing partner is in the midst of an epiliptic fit (I'm epiliptic so that joke's allowed).
Second Word – a definition alteration:
Literally - “in a literal manner or sense; exactly”
This first definition makes sense.
New addition, a second definition - “used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true”.
So, in the acronym-enamored society where texting has ruined spelling to the point that “You” is now “U”, “By The Way” is “BTW” and “LMAO” is Laugh My (gludius maximus) Off, we have now ruined the English language to the point that a word literally (forgive the pun) doesn't mean what it means.
The word literally, is now generally accepted as not literally being meant in its literal sense.
That figuratively doesn't make sense (I'm just a couple dictionary definition changes ahead on that joke).
And this, my friends, is the point where our generations 20 years later look back and realize, “This was the beginning of the end.”
Anyway, until next week, keep a smile on your face, and I'll literally (or is it figuratively) do the same.