One hundred years of Roald Dahl: an Oxford English Dictionary update

   12 SEPTEMBER 2016, Oxford, UK -- Today the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) announces its latest update, including more than 1,000 revised and updated entries and around 1,200 new senses. This confirms the OED as one of the largest and longest-running language research projects in the world.                                                                                                    

Storytelling: the enduring legacy of Roald Dahl

To celebrate the centenary of Roald Dahl’s birth this week, and the publication of the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary, the OED is publishing a range of new and revised entries containing references to Roald Dahl’s writing in this month’s quarterly update. Chief Editor of the OED, Michael Proffitt commented:

“The inclusion in OED of a number of words coined by or associated with Roald Dahl reflects both his influence as an author and his vivid and distinctive style. For many children Roald Dahl’s work is not only one of their first experiences of reading, but also their earliest exposure to the creative power of language.”

The words are recognizably Dahlesque, such as Oompa Loompa: the name for Willy Wonka's diminutive and musical workers in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Scrumdiddlyumptious (for when ‘scrumptious’ just won’t suffice) and witching hour have both been added. ‘Witching hour’ is described by Roald Dahl in The BFG as the ‘special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up [is] in a deep deep sleep’, although it was actually first mentioned in 1762 in a poem by Elizabeth Carter Keene.

Scrumptious and splendiferous have both been revised in this update, to include quotations reflecting our encounters with the words in Roald Dahl’s books. The entirely new entry for human bean includes a quotation from The BFG, while new evidence for golden ticket reveals its origins to be from long before its appearance in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, although for many it is indelibly associated with the moment when Charlie Bucket found his own in the wrapper of a Wonka Whipple-Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delight.

Luke Kelly, Managing Director of The Roald Dahl Literary Estate and Roald Dahl’s grandson said: “It’s no secret that my grandfather, Roald Dahl, took particular relish in playing with language and making it his own. Of all the many wonderful tributes being paid to him in his centenary year, the inclusion of his words and phrases within the iconic Oxford English Dictionary feels not only one of the most fitting but one that I know would have made him extremely happy and proud.”

Vineeta Gupta, Head of Children’s Dictionaries at Oxford University Press added: “We know Roald Dahl continues to inspire millions of children around the world and also holds a special place in the hearts of adults. We were delighted to publish the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary for children this year. And now, it is wonderful to see that some of Roald Dahl’s word inventions have moved out of the confines of children’s reading and writing and into adult language, and have stood the test of time to be captured in the Oxford English Dictionary.”

What else is new to the OED?

Scrumdiddlyumptious words

An abundance of food-related terms have also made the latest update, which includes cheese eater and cheese-eating, restaurant positions such as chef de partie and chef de cabinet, as well as the overall fact, state, or positioning of becoming a chef: chefdom (noun). Cheeseball has also been added, to describe someone or something lacking taste, style, or originality; or more prosaically, the breaded and deep fried cheese appetizer. Bocconcini, which can denote any small items of food, also means balls of mozzarella. And fans of Greek food will be pleased to see the inclusion of the spinach and cheese stuffed filo pastry pie, spanakopita.

Words from Southeast Asia have made their way into the update, with the addition of the Malaysian or Indonesian dish, rendang; the flat rice noodle dish stir-fried in soy sauce and shrimp paste, char kway teow; and the Filipino oxtail stew with a peanut-based sauce, kare-kare.

Other interesting additions

Fuhgeddaboudit is a US colloquialism, associated especially with New York and New Jersey, reflecting an attempted regional pronunciation of the phrase ‘forget about it’, used to indicate a suggested scenario is unlikely or undesirable.

Gender-fluid (adjective) was first recorded in 1987, and now refers to a person who does not identify with a single fixed gender.

Moobs (noun) is the chiefly British colloquialism, first recorded in 2001, used to describe unusually prominent breasts on a man, typically as a result of excess pectoral fat.

Squee (verb) was first recorded in 2003 and means to utter a high-pitched squealing sound expressive of delight or excitement.

You make statements that seem like they’re questions? That’s uptalk: a manner of speaking in which declarative sentences are uttered with rising intonation at the end. Upspeak (noun) can have a similar meaning, but it also means emphasizing positive but trivial statements in political rhetoric.

First used in 1998, Westminster bubble (noun) describes an insular community of politicians, journalists, and civil servants, who appear to be out of touch with the experiences of the wider British public.

Have you ever wondered what happens when you combine Pilates exercises with the postures and breathing techniques of yoga? Yogalates (noun)!

YOLO has become a popular acronym used on social media, meaning ‘you only live once’. Often used as the rationale for impulsive behaviour, it refers to making the most of the present moment without worrying about the future. Interestingly, it was recorded in 1996 that Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead lived on a secluded, 50-acre estate called ‘YOLO’.


Notes for Editors

To arrange an interview with a Dictionaries editor, or for any further information, please contact:

[Please note: The editors are available for interview on Thursday 8th, Friday 9th, Monday 12th, and Tuesday 13th]

Media contact (UK, Europe, and Rest of World):

Chloe Foster, Press Officer, Oxford Dictionaries | +44 (0)1865 353584| +44 (0)7788394243

Media contact (The Americas):

Molly Grote, Publicist, Oxford University Press | (001) 212.743.8337

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