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No Oxfording, please

Erin McKean, the irrepressible Dictionary Evangelist, referred to this neologism in a post earlier this year: Oxfording is the invention of a word with the intent of getting it entered into the Oxford English Dictionary.

To Oxford is to micturate* into the wind, because lexicographers are immune to lobbying. They add words to the dictionary based on frequency, locations and staying power. And the words they add are usually those that have sprung up spontaneously, like mushrooms after a rain.

I understand exactly what he means when Stuart Froman suggests a new word, conjobulation, at That’s Write: “the state of having so many projects to do and so many errands to run and so many familial pressures to manage and so many interruptions to recover from that sober individuals can be sitting at a stoplight and suddenly have no idea where they are supposed to be going, that they can be in the middle of a conversation and suddenly have no idea what they are talking about, that they can wake in the middle of the night in a panic but have no idea which problem woke them up.”

He has appealed to me and a select group of other bloggers to popularize the word. Despite his touching faith in my influence, it’s doubtful that I could be much help. For one thing, Technorati indicates that there are 69,081 blogs on its rolls more popular than this one. For another thing, such campaigns tend to fizzle. In the early days of his late-night show, David Letterman occasionally tried to popularize catch phrases invented by his staff — “They’re pelting us with rocks and garbage” was one I thought particularly evocative. But despite his vast audience, nothing ever caught on.

Language, like Old Man River, just keeps rolling along, going where it will, thwarting attempts to harness it.


* Come on, surely you can guess. From the Latin micturire, if that’s helpful.



Posted by John McIntyre at 3:30 PM | | Comments (4)


Finally, some practical use for the convoluted medical vocabulary I've acquired.

I still occasionally say one of Letterman's coinages: "Them bats is smart. They use radar."

Yes, it will probably fizzle, but thanks so much for the mention. At least my friends, kids, and some colleagues are using it all the time.

We don't need the footnote!

"Every time a rug is micturated upon in this fair city, I have to compensate the owner?"

Perhaps You might need the footnote?

This copy editor abides. . .;-)

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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