Has the internet changed the way we speak?

Aug 14th, 2014

When Alexis de Tocqueville said: “the genius of democracies is seen not only in the great number of new words introduced, but even more in the new ideas they express” he was probably thinking less of ‘amazeballs’ and hopefully more about ‘link bait’

OxfordDictionaries.com has, in the last two years, surprised many when it comes to adding new words to the already intriguing and progressive language that English is. The fact that an online version of a dictionary has become essential in identifying new trends, language included, should indicate the ever growing importance of the web today.

Heavily influenced by Celtic, Latin, Saxon, Norman and even German, English has developed into a language where slang words such as, ‘dench’ and ‘yolo’ are equally as common place as Shakespeare’s ‘auspicious’ and ‘watchdog’.

But what has really changed the English language is the proliferation of technology in everyday conversation. Email, which radically transformed business communications in the early nineties, was only added to the dictionary some twenty years after its initial use.

What about Facebook? Are you a tweeter? Sites which have yet to reach teenage-hood are already part of our day to day speech. More interestingly, they don’t require translation. Such is their size and importance to non-English speaking markets, that there is neither the need to translate nor, perhaps, the want.

But the most recent inclusions into the English dictionary are, in my humble opinion, representing a shift in a language which is used to constantly changing.

New words, acquihire, clickbait, Deep Web, dox, fast follower, geocache, in silico, octocopter, responsive, smartwatch, and tech-savvy are just the latest in a long line of new words included in OxfordDictionaries.com database. Here are just a few explanations to get your head around.

Clickbait: “(On the Internet) content, especially that of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular web page”

Deep Web: “The part of the World Wide Web that is not discoverable by means of standard search engines, including password-protected or dynamic pages and encrypted networks”

In Silico: “(Of scientific experiments or research) conducted or produced by means of computer modelling or computer simulation”

Fast Follower: “a company that quickly imitates the innovations of its competitors”

Hyperconnected: “characterised by the widespread or habitual use of devices that have internet connectivity”

So what can we take from all of this? Are words that we hear on the streets going to be used more and more to satiate the needs of an internet savvy audience, and in turn, change a language at the flick of a switch? Or will the language of the internet remain on the internet?

The crossover between the web and day to day life is here, and the internet is radically adding new words at a rate never experienced. My advice, keep it simple. You don’t want to mix up your YOLOs with adorbs when being asked to do a sponsored sky dive.

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