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  • Another interesting question linked to the disappearance of space constraints is what will happen to the conventions, built up over many decades, that were designed to cram as much information as possible into a limited space. I’m talking about abbreviations such as n for noun and sb for someone, of course, but also the extremely compressed ways that were developed of conveying grammatical information. Some dictionary publishers have gone in for this more than others: an example from a very well known learner’s dictionary for a pattern of one of the core verbs of English: ~ sb/sth sth | ~ sth (to sb/sth). It takes a considerable effort to decode this, an effort that will presumably no longer be required once dictionary makers take full advantage of the possibilities offered by electronic formats.

  • You’re right, Liz. There are so many principles and conventions which we have to rethink following the move from paper to online, and inclusion policy is just one of them. I often use the online version of the dictionary of the Real Academia Española (rae.es): a good dictionary, but it still has all the abbreviations you find in the paper version, and still uses the tilde ( ~ ) in place of the headword in example sentences – which seems crazy.

  • Further to mousemageddon: clearly the suffix is a gift to newspaper subs. In the Guardian this morning: “Three extra women in cabinet is hardly a whiteguymageddon”.

  • Great post Michael, thanks.

    There is a good case for ‘-mageddon’ being included in a dictionary as a suffix. Like ‘-gate’, it is a) very productive and b) not transparent. Loved your quote, Liz. I am happy to see that although it has not been a whiteguymageddon, this week has certainly been a Govemageddon.

  • William Safire once said that ‘ex-spouse you have sex with’ is a concept that needs a word about as much as the concept ‘neighbor whose house is on fire’. To which I add: but a word for ‘neighbor you have sex with while their house is on fire’ would doubtless be Ultimate Koolness.

    I once accidentally coined the word ugilinose, a typo for uliginose. Then a few friends of mine started to run with it: Hey, Ugilinose [with initial stress], when are you going to get it fixed?