Monthly Archives: August 2016

Talking in Dark Matter

My son is a statistics major, even though his father and I have always been theatre and communications types. We wonder where this math and data inclination came from, but every now and then, something gives us a clue about his data-driven genes.

One such clue was my excitement about a recent blog post from Oxford Dictionaries. (Their slogan is even “language matters,” which right in line with mine, “Your words matter.”) In “Are 52% of words really not included in dictionaries?” Elyse Graham takes a look at a study in Science magazine about English word usage in books. She is also writing a book I can’t wait to read, about the history of the English language in New York City.

In the “52%” post, Graham explores the “dark matter” of this majority of English words and looks at the importance of considering a word’s frequency. She discusses when and why dictionaries include or exclude derivatives of core words (known as lexemes), such as deletable or aridification. (Microsoft Word does not approve of these words, for the record.) Best of all, she encourages adding “color and whimsy” to our lives by creating new derivatives. Her examples, such as “invisibilized” would not go over well with many of my editor colleagues, but I like to play with coined words myself.

When is the last time you added -iferous to anything? Give it a try!