OMG, LOL, BFF and “♥ to heart” can now be found in the Oxford English Dictionary.
The latest set of online updates in the dictionary (OED) was released last week, generating controversy.
The inclusion of texting and internet-inspired initialisms – abbreviations consisting of the initial letters of expressions, such as “oh my God” and “laughing out loud” – has caused mixed reactions.
English professor at Wits school of literature and language studies, Victor Houliston, said: “The underlying question is: ‘what is a dictionary for?’ Is it to prescribe how words should be used, or is it merely a guide to the way words are actually used?”
According to him, most people instinctively tend to be “uneasy about the inclusion of words with dubious legitimacy”. His view was backed by students’ responses.
Lufefe Boss, a 2nd year BA African literature student, said: “I do not think that including such vocabulary in an acclaimed dictionary such as the Oxford will serve the purpose of why people consult dictionaries.”
“What next will we have? Smiley faces and refresh buttons part of the dictionary?” said Nandi Ganda, a 2nd year BA linguistics student who thinks the use of this “cyber slang” is limited to very few environments.
Kelly Harris, Kayleigh Rabie and Daniella Sleigh, 3rd year BEd students and teachers in training, think that the OED’s update might give students the right to use slang in academic writings, making it harder for essays to be taken seriously.
“The Oxford Dictionary is seen as a high academic ‘resource’ and by having OMG, LOL etc. in the dictionary, it takes away the high standard that it carries with it,” they said.
Associate professor of sociolinguistics Tommaso Milani disagrees with his colleague’s point of view that “we should try to stick to plain English and accepted rules of grammar”.
Milani said the update is very positive in a way that it acknowledges the importance of internet language in contemporary society.
“I like the fact that there is diversity in the language and I’m happy that authoritative sources, like dictionaries, mirror that diversity rather than suppressing it,” he said.
The latest update revised more than 1900 entries. The OED publishes four updates each year and the next one is in June.