This week the blogosphere is responding with bemused appreciation to the initial results of CollinsDictionary.com's crowd-sourcing. Taking a tip from the original Oxford English Dictionary, which more than a century ago recruited contributions from word-enthusiasts, Collins editors invited the public to submit words for review and possible inclusion. In the first two months, more than 4,400 words were proposed, according to a press release. Editors selected 86.
Browsing the list of these new words, I was struck by the format for each entry that CollinsDictionary.com is employing. Since at least the 18th century, a dictionary entry typically has included the word to be defined, the part of speech, labels, and a definition. Sometimes entries offer a guide to pronunciation, etymology, synonyms, and an example of usage (in the case of historical dictionaries, evidence of when, where and how the word was used in the past).
CollinsDictionary.com entries for the words on the crowd-sourced list supply a definition, part of speech, and some labels... plus a "Sponsored Links" section, and a "Comment" section (which includes the username of the person who proposed the word). In many cases, the Links and Comment sections are blank. I guess I am relieved that there is no Sponsored Link for "mummy porn" or "geekism,", but still, the blank space creates an oddly forlorn effect, as if a word doesn't have any friends.
Maybe what makes Sponsored words popular is that they are concrete--or can be perceived as such. Look up the definition of "shabby chic" and Google will invite you to check out Shabby Chic decor, Shabby Chic painted furniture and (one shudders to think) Shabby Chic mattresses. Wondering what "K-pop" means, you find your attention directed to K-pop radio and Toyota Camrys.
Is this lexicographical shopping list so much different from Samuel Johnson's listing the word-sponsors, as it were, in his abridged Dictionary of the English Language? After all, look up a word there and you will see, after the definition, a list of the names who brought it to you:
Shakespeare. Bacon. Swift.