BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day

©John Denney 6 September 2006


New Words


Chambers Dictionary’s new edition came out recently.  It has lots of new words that have come into the English language in the last three years.  Three years ago, we’d not played Sudoku[1], hadn’t downloaded a podcast[2] onto our iPods[3] or MP3s[4] and you were either married or single, but never in a civil partnership[5].  And today, most of us are comfortable with chip and pin[6] technology.


But some of the new words reflect the anxieties of our time.  Our national struggle with obesity has given us bingo wings and muffin tops, apparently.  That’s baggy arms and the rolls of fat that hang over low-cut trousers.  Three years ago, we’d never heard of hoodies, the young teenagers whom one of our politicians[7] urged the nation to hug.  And some of them have had asbos placed on them.  And Islamophobia is an epidemic we’re struggling to deal with these days.


Isn’t it wonderful how the English language changes and adapts to deal with new things!  These days, we can’t understand a Shakespeare play unless we study his vocabulary a little, and Chaucer needs quite a lot of effort.  Between you and me, I struggle with the King James Version of the bible, beautiful as it is.  Our English language has moved on so much, and so many words have changed their meanings. 


I was going to read you the Lord’s prayer in 10th Century West Saxon[8], but it’s too difficult.  Oh, all right.  Here’s how it starts: Fęder ure žu že eart on heofonum (“Fäthr, oor thu the eart on hėvnum”).  I think I’d rather stick with the tried and tested words.  No need to sex up the language!


[1] Sudoku is alogic-based placement puzzle. The aim of the puzzle is to enter the digits 1 through 9 in each cell of a 9×9 grid made up of 3×3 subgrids (called "regions") so that each row, column, and region contains exactly one instance of each digit. A set of clues, or "givens", constrain the puzzle such that there is only one way to correctly fill in the remainder.

[2] A podcast is a multimedia file distributed over the internet using syndication feeds, for playback on mobile devices and personal computers.

[3] The iPod is a brand of portable media players designed and marketed by Apple Computer..

[4] MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a popular digital audio encoding and compression format, designed to greatly reduce the amount of data required to represent audio, yet still sound like a faithful reproduction of the original uncompressed audio to most listeners.

[5] A legal registration of unrelated same-sex people living together and giving them most of the legal rights accorded to married couples.

[6] The chip is a microchip embedded in a credit or debit card; the PIN is a secret number which, when keyed into a reader, activates the card.

[7] David Cameron, current leader of the Conservatives.

[8] Fęder ure žu že eart on heofonum, Si žin nama gehalgod. to becume žin rice, gewurže šin willa, on eoršan swa swa on heofonum. urne gedęghwamlican hlaf syle us todęg, and forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgyfaš urum gyltendum. and ne gelęd žu us on costnunge, ac alys us of yfele. sožlice.