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Oxford dictionary adds texting shorthand

Associated Press / March 26, 2011

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LONDON — OMG! LOL! The venerable Oxford English Dictionary approves of the three-letter, Internet-inspired expressions you use for “Oh, my God!’’ and “Laughing out loud.’’

It is adding them to the authoritative reference book’s latest online update.

Both expressions are among 900 new words included this week. Cracking the dictionary, however, is no easy task.

“The OED is quite cautious,’’ said Graeme Diamond, the dictionary’s principal editor for new words.

Terms made popular online are only included among the dictionary’s 300,000 entries when they have crossed over into everyday use, Diamond said.

Although the new abbreviations are associated with modern electronic communications, some are surprisingly old. The first confirmed use of OMG was in a 1917 letter by a British admiral.

“Things people think are new words normally have a longer history,’’ Diamond said.

Editors publish updates to the online Oxford every three months.

The OED’s Internet version was launched in 2000 and gets 2 million hits a month from subscribers.

The new update also includes:

■Muffin top, “a protuberance of flesh above the waistband of a tight pair of trousers.’’

■Wag, “wives and girlfriends.’’ It was first used in 2002 to describe the female partners of members of the England soccer team. Now it denotes the glamorous and extravagant female partners of male celebrities.

■Heart as a verb, a casual equivalent of “to love’’ that is represented with a symbol, as seen on souvenirs proclaiming “I (heart) New York.’’

■And the latest update hearts the Road Runner cartoon character. The word “meep’’ — a short high-pitched sound — made the cut.

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