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Open Dictionary Word of the Month: clowder

© PHOTODISC122 new entries were accepted into the Open Dictionary in October, a considerable increase on the previous month’s figure. Overall submissions were about the same, meaning that more of the entries submitted met the criteria for acceptance.

Several of the submissions are technical or semi-technical words from various specialist areas; these include alexithymia and carafology, capacitance and dinosaurian, escheat and nyctophilia. In the days of print, many such technical terms would not have been included in a general dictionary intended for learners of English, but the digital format allows us to vastly expand the range of entries that can be covered.



Another category of words that would have struggled to justify their place in a print learners’ dictionary but can find a home online is that of rare, very formal or literary words: additions in this category include concupiscence, desuetude and plash.

One word that was rejected, and by no means for the first time, was frindle, submitted presumably by a fan of the children’s book of the same name. The point about frindle is that unless and until people start saying ‘Hand me that frindle, would you?’ or going into shops, asking for one, and being understood, it remains a made-up word from a children’s book and thus has no place in a dictionary, even a crowdsourced one.

Other words that caught my attention were conversate – an informal way of saying converse, back-formed from conversation; cafeteria Catholic – someone who picks and chooses which of the doctrines of the Catholic church to follow; and neatnik, someone who is obsessed with keeping things tidy. My word of the month, however, is neither new nor particularly exciting. I like it for two reasons: first, because it gives a name to something I never knew needed or had one; and second, because in a dank and dreary November it reminds me of a gloriously hot and sunny week in a holiday house in Puglia that featured what I now know to call a clowder of very elegant semi-feral cats.

If there’s a word or expression that you think deserves inclusion in the Open Dictionary you can submit it here. Don’t forget to check first to make sure your word isn’t in our dictionary already.

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Liz Potter

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