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Brand New Words

Wort des Monats: Weblish

Every month we offer you one interesting word which is new to the English language. You won't find this in most dictionaries, and time will tell if it becomes really established. Try to guess the meaning before you read the definitions/examples below.

Weblish or weblish: a form of English peculiar to some online documents and communication, the characteristics of which include the use of all-lowercase letters, infrequent punctuation, errors in spelling and grammar, and an informal tone. Also referred to as netspeak, webspeak and Internetese.

Are we currently experiencing the death of English and the birth of Weblish? Is the Internet destroying our language as we know it? While language purists believe Armageddon is upon us, the Internet community simply ROLF’s (rolling on the floor laughing) or LOL’S (laugh out loud). The fact is, the Internet is having an impact on the English language, for better or worse.

As early as 2000 (60 Internet years by some estimates), the UK-based consultancy The Fourth Room identified several new language conventions that underscore the influence of Weblish. Among them were:
• the acceptability of spelling mistakes even in formal emails.
• the death of the apostrophe, which is considered unnecessary by most Internet users.
• creative professionals find it acceptable to write emails entirely in lower case.

Because English has no real oversight (in contrast to Germany where a ministry is responsible for setting the guidelines – die Rechtsschreibung), it’s the perfect companion to the anarchistic Internet. The Internet Generation has a key ally in Jeremy Butterfield, chief editor of the Collins English Dictionary. He claims to be a fan of Weblish: "The sheer weight and quality of Weblish now entering the language is unmistakable evidence of the intoxicating vitality (mitreißende Vitalität) of English.” He went on to add that “a dictionary should not dictate language but should listen and record language as it is spoken now ... language should be a living and evolving creature rather than tied down with out-of-date and inflexible definitions".

Sources: wordspy.com, The Guardian, www.journalism.co.uk


© Paul Smith


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