Oxford’s short dictionary adds hundreds of new words, including ‘carbon footprint’

By Kate Schuman

LONDON – Carbon footprint, green audit and Chelsea tractor are among the raft of environmental terms being added to the latest Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, published Thursday in United States and Britain.

The sixth edition of the dictionary, an abridged version of the Oxford English Dictionary, includes 2,500 new words that have been added since the last edition was published in 2002.

In the new edition, “carbon footprint” is defined as the amount of greenhouse gas emissions an individual is responsible for, while a “green audit” is an inspection of a company to define its impact on the environment. “Chelsea tractor” is a British slang term for a gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle.

The additions also include “carbon-neutral,” achieving a zero level of carbon dioxide emissions, and “emissions trading,” selling or buying permits handed to nations or businesses to emit a certain level of carbon dioxide.

“Suddenly people have become much more concerned in climate change,” said Angus Stevenson, the edition’s editor. “It’s trendy to be green, and that has made the vocabulary of green issues much more widespread.”

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    The influx of new phrases has followed the scrapping of a rule that a word must appear five times in five published sources over five years, Stevenson said. Editors now use their discretion to decide on a new word’s merit.

    Other new terms are “manbag,” a male handbag; “yummy mummy,” an attractive mother; and phrases like “less is more,” “the new black” and “take a chill pill.”

    “You could say there are two kinds of new words,” Stevenson said. “There are new items of technology and new slang words that everybody is using.”

    New words imported from foreign languages are often food related, including “churro” (a Spanish fried dessert), “kheer” (an Indian dessert of rice and sweet milk), “pastilla” (a Moroccan pigeon pie), “pho” (a type of Vietnamese soup) and “tataki” (Japanese raw or slightly seared meat or fish).

    The new edition, just two volumes to the full Oxford English Dictionary’s 28 volumes, also includes 1,300 new quotations from authors.

    Stevenson said words in common use since 1700 are included in the dictionary, while most of those which became obsolete before that date are omitted – except words used in the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare, John Milton and Geoffrey Chaucer.