Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"The Simpsons" and New Words

Sunday night, Bravo re-aired one of my favorite episodes of Inside the Actors Studio -- the episode featuring the cast of The Simpsons. (Don't even start on what it means that I have a favorite episode of Inside the Actor's Studio. I'm an Elitist, remember? It's perfectly normal.) The episode featured James Lipton (who always reminds me of one of those heads in a jar from the late lamented Futurama) interviewing Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Hank Azaria, Nancy Cartwright, Harry Shearer, and Yeardly Smith. It was terrific fun with the actors doing various voices -- both with the characters on screen and in person. (Watching Nancy Cartwright do Bart is pretty wonderful.) Lipton called forth various characters from Homer and Marge to Ned Flanders and Apu. Watching Cartwright and Azaria ad lib several Bart-Mo prank phone calls was especially fun. Much was made at the time about the disappearance of Julie Kavner (who voices Marge) in the second half of the show. When the show originally aired, there was a lot of speculation about whether or not she'd left in a disgruntled huff. The reality, she had another commitment and taping had run on quite long. (She does refuse to be filmed voicing her characters, though, which was why characters were shown on screen through some of the episode.)

Aaaannnyway, I always laugh when Lipton prompts Castellaneta/Homer to demonstrate the full range of "D'oh!"'s based on level of severity, from the simple one hit "D'oh!" to the longer, much more harried "Dooo-ooohh!!" Funnily enough, when Lipton pointed out that several dictionaries had included "D'oh" as an official new word, he noted that in the script it always appears as "annoyed grunt". I find it weirdly funny that "D'oh" has been a much touted new word in dictionaries in the past few years when the writers of the show don't even consider it a real word.

Knowing just enough about how dictionaries are made to be very dangerous, I know that while we read the annual reports every year of what new words make it in, lexicographers do not take this new word business lightly. It takes years and hundreds of demonstrable usages in printed word, much discussion, and the actual writing of a definition before a word is considered accepted. And the actual process of defining the word is much more complex that one would imagine. Either way, here we are to the "annual list of new words". Hey, "wedgie" finally made it in. Maybe it was tough to define. From Monday's SF Chronicle.

Word joins Al Qaeda, blog, irritable bowel syndrome in Websters dictionary

Wedgie, a teenager's locker-room nightmare, has made it into the dictionary. Webster's New World College Dictionary based in Cleveland said wedgie was among its new additions to its latest edition. The new edition will carry this listing: wedgie: noun. a prank in which the victim's undershorts are jerked upward so as to become wedged between the buttocks. The dictionary also carries the tradition wedgie definition of a type of shoe.'Wedgie' was always a part of the high school terminology that you sort of never thought about later," said Editor in Chief Michael Agnes." It never really entered the mainstream until the '90s. It broke out of high school and, boy -- if you don't know what it is, you're absolutely at a loss." The new edition will reach bookstores by May and has 58 new entries, plus another 20 new senses of existing words (such as wedgie). The additions include Al Qaeda, blog, cargo pants, irritable bowel syndrome and partial-birth abortion.


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