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WWNC? BFF a word in OED! |

WWNC? BFF a word in OED!

My Phone's keypad
Photo by sonson
OK, for anyone who more successfully avoids texting than I do, here’s a translation of the title: Will wonders never cease? BFF (a texting abbreviation) is a word in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). “OED” BTW is one of many initialisms that are much older than texting or any of the other electronic means of communication (chat, instant messaging, Twitter) that require writing in shortcuts for one reason or another.

Texting requires using the numbers 2-9 on a cell phone key pad to make 26 letters of the alphabet. 2, for example, has meant ABC ever since Ma Bell invented telephone exchanges. (1 and 0 never represented letters because the phone company had other uses for them.) The old system, which until lately seemed quaint and obsolete, assigned three letters to each of those eight keys, omitting Q and Z. For text messaging, those neglected letters have been assigned to 7 and 9 respectively.

Language purists are up in arms. Shouldn’t the editors of the august OED serve as gate keepers, the last bastion of defense for the English language? Their attitude toward texting abbreviations may be best described as floccinaucinihilipilification, the act of esteeming as worthless. Actually language purists when the OED first appeared might have viewed that monstrous entry with just as much alarm.

When the first editor of the OED sought collaborators for the mammoth project, some fun loving intellectuals (that is not an oxymoron!) made up long words, got them published, and vied to see who could invent the longest word that would get into the new dictionary.¬†Similarly, I suspect that many texting abbreviations came from the desire to see the most obscure and difficult creations go viral. The initialisms in the OED simply show that it’s doing one of its core jobs of documenting the development of the English language.


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