So Dr. Johnson observed in his Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755; now a team of physicists and economists have published a study of the statistical patterns governing this growth cycle, based on the corpus of GoogleBooks. They examine the life cycles of words in English, Spanish and Hebrew. I did try to read the article, which is available in Scientific Reports, but it was way over my head. The graphs are a bit easier to follow. And here's a link to an article for us lay-folk, in the Wall Street Journal. Reporter Christopher Shea comments:
The authors even identified a universal "tipping point" in the life cycle of new words: Roughly 30 to 50 years after their birth, they either enter the long-term lexicon or tumble off a cliff into disuse. The authors suggest that this may be because that stretch of decades marks the point when dictionary makers approve or disapprove new candidates for inclusion. Or perhaps it's generational turnover: Children accept or reject their parents' coinages.
The completion of volume 5 of the Dictionary of American Regional English has launched a thousand blogs and articles--every journalist, opiner and natterer has something to say, coinages to celebrate, regionalisms to rejoice in, slang to savor. Just in the last two days, for example, articles and postings appeared from Reuters, the Denver Post, the Bangor Daily News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Grand Forks Herald. And that's only what I noted in a casual survey.
So, I'll just cull a couple: here's a followup to the main celebration at the The New York Times Artblog. The posting discusses the work of Brice Russ, a graduate student at Ohio State University who spoke at ADS earlier this year, on his research on "200 million or so messages posted each day in the supposedly placeless world of Twitter," and connects this study to the larger DARE project.
And the Chronicle of Higher Education has two articles: a long reflective piece that unfortunately is only available to subscribers (but here's the link anyway) and a shorter posting on the Chronicle's Lingua Franca blog by DSNA member Allan Metcalf.