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7 Comments

  • This is really interesting, Stan. Traditionally, Words of the Year are either already in dictionaries (e.g. “austerity”, Merriam-Webster’s WOTY, 2010), or they become new dictionary entries (e.g. Oxford’s WOTY “selfie” in 2013, or “credit crunch” in 2008). Now, these hashtags, as you say, “point to conversations taking place”, but (unlike other WOTYs) I can’t see any of them becoming entries in dictionaries. So there’s a new divergence between what’s interesting from a sociolinguistic point of view and what is relevant to people who compile dictionaries. Whether we need to update our inclusion principles is an unresolved question.

  • Nice post. What I’ve found interesting about ‘hashtag’ over the past year or so (and perhaps this *is* relevant for lexicographers) is its use in speech, eg: ‘I wish things were different- hashtag frustrated’. Suddenly the word has become a marker of something like conversational implicature.

    It’s another example, akin to the likes of ‘oh em gee’ in speech etc, where we’re appropriating social media speak because, bizarrely, it proves a handy characterization of a discourse concept which we’ve previously not bothered with or had the tools to identify. .

  • It’s definitely relevant to dictionaries, Kerry. In the case of hashtag Macmillan has that conversational use covered (here). It’s a bit like the way computational terms (such as “default setting“) have acquired new meanings outside the IT area.

  • Yep thanks, I’ve just noticed that – Macmillan are well ahead of the game here 🙂 – none of the other main publishers have covered this usage yet.

  • Michael: I found it an interesting choice too, and for multiple reasons. I don’t see particular hashtags as something dictionaries need to cover, but I would like to see a good online hashtag directory, with clear explanations of popular hashtags.

    Kerry: Yes, I know a couple of people who say hashtag [X] regularly in conversation, and though I’ve used it once or twice, I won’t be making a habit of it! The NYT looked at this extension of the word a few years ago.