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New Words

Hargraves, Orin (ed.)
Publisher:  Oxford University Press
Year Published:  2004  
Pages:  320pp   Price:  $29.95   ISBN:  0-19-517282-5

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The dust jacket proudly proclaims, "They still have that new word smell#". Maybe so, but you would have to go to the new food words to really find the smells. These new food words are simply foreign words entering the English language (and not made up, brand "new" words): adobo, broccoli rabe, capellini, enoki, huevos rancheros, and puttanesca. They are all listed in this book, as examples of the globalization of food leading from our consumption of "fusion" (this word is found in the book) food.

Hargraves has been a lexicographer for the past 15 years, working for all of the major dictionary publishers at one time or another. He is the author of Mighty Fine Words and Smashing Expressions (Oxford UP), a guide to the differences between US and UK words.

The format in this present book is largely the same as in dictionaries. For each of 2500 words, there is entry, syllabification, pronunciation, examples, derivatives, etymology, grammar, phrases, cross-references, citation to a printed source. Phrases are also included.

In fact, some phrases here are not really new. "Bridge mix" has been around forever it seems (a candy treat was named after the phrase), as has "Dixie Cup" and "barf bag" and "guest book". His rationale for inclusion is that these phrases had fallen through the cracks at the major dictionary publishers' offices, and thus they are actually missing from standard reference works.

Some words need further explanation, such as the definition for "acid reflux" (a condition that also happens when one is sleeping, not just after a meal) and "access charge" or "access fee" (also employed by ATMs and their bank networks but not noted as such by Hargraves since he just mentions telephone networks).

As you can see, I just looked at the beginnings of "A", so there may be other deficiencies in explanations. I checked out a few food entries as well. The book has a topical index, with broad subject headings such as "Arts and Music", "Computing", "Law and Politics", lifestyle, medicine, society, religion, science, sports, and, of course "Food and Clothing" (a strange combination, unless you consider the fact that we are always spilling food on our clothes).

The trick here is where to draw the line, since food is still full of regionalisms. The cuisine of the day seems to be Mexican and Italian, with a foray into Asian. Even so, a local (Cajun) dish such as "dirty rice" is supposed to contain giblets. Hargraves only notes chicken livers; this is another example of incompleteness.

"Internet" has made it into the big books, but "Intranet" has apparently not.

Some words are dubious choices, such as "office park dad" and its abbreviation "OPD". I asked around, and nobody I know in Toronto has ever heard the phrase. However, they have now, so the book is effective in promulgating change.

Audience or interest level: libraries, word hounds, journalists looking for story ideas.

Some interesting facts: "We have included in this dictionary only the new senses of a word, but in the cases where the new sense makes little sense without reference to an older one, both the original and the newer sense are defined here".

What I don't like about this resource: the topical index has no running heads, so you don't know what subject you are in as you turn the pages. There are also no cross-references, such as "Music see Arts and Music". In addition, the short bibliography only refers to Oxford UP books!

What I do like about this resource: there is a short essay on the coining of new words.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 90.

[Review by Dean Tudor]

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