Restoration and Neoclassical Miscellanea

Ever Changing English

Posted by: Kathryn Concepcion

. Say “WORD” (Johnson’s Dictionary Online)

Say “WORD” (Johnson’s Dictionary Online)

“Total and sudden transformations of a language seldom happen.”  These words were written by Samuel Johnson, father of the English dictionary, in the Preface to A Dictionary of the English Language (Norton 2931). Ironically, Samuel Johnson and the composition of the first English dictionary suddenly transformed the English language.  Not only were words given parts of speech, but most important was the standardization of how words were spelled and the definition each word held.

Technology, much like Johnson and his creation of A Dictionary of the English Language, has also brought sudden transformations to the English language in the 21st century.  New words that arise out of new technological advancements are added to the dictionary every year. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: 11th Ed. included new words and new definitions of existing words that reflect a sudden transformation of the English language.  Microblogging, smartphone, and robocall are all new words that were added to Merriam- Webster’s Dictionary in 2012; words that were nonexistent prior to the 21st century.

Figure 2.Insert of Merriam -Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th Ed. displaying new words recently added (Merriam-Webster).

Technology has transformed the English so drastically, that sometimes in order to understand the new definition of an already existing word, we need to know the meaning of another new word first.  For example, the words tweet and social media go hand in hand in the 21st century.  Tweet is defined as “a post made on the Twitter online social media message service” and “to post a message to the Twitter online message service” (Merriam- Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th Ed. 1352).  The definition of tweet will only be logical to people who know what social media (and online) means. Social media defined as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content” (Merriam-Webster’s 1183).

This cartoon demonstrates the frustration that come along with receiving excessive political robocalls (LA Progressive).

This cartoon demonstrates the frustration that come along with receiving excessive political robocalls (LA Progressive).

Robocall is yet another word that was invented to meet the demand of new words needed to describe technology.  Robocall is so much in its infancy that Microsoft Word 2013 spellchecks it as being spelled incorrectly, suggesting only two replacements: Rockwall and Rob call. Merriam-Webster’s defines robocall as “a telephone call from an automated source that delivers a prerecorded message to a large number of people” (Merriam-Webster).  Prerecorded messages are usually an attempt by political candidates to solicit votes or companies offering “to good to be true” services.

This exemplifies how technology of the 21st century has brought about the rapid transformation of the English language through the necessity for new words and the necessity of new definitions to pre-existing words.


Brasch, Walter. “Political Campaign Robocalls.” LA Progressive. N.p., 21 May 2014. Web. 30 Nov. 2015 <;.

Johnson’s Dictionary Online. N.p., 17 Nov. 2010. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. http://johnsons

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary -Eleventh Ed.-. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 2012. Print.

The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. C. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. 2929. Print.

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This entry was posted on December 7, 2015 by in Samuel Johnson.
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