Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Perfectly Cromulent Words

Just as mapmakers have been inserting phantom streets and other elements into their work for years to aid in detecting map ripper-offers, dictionaries and encyclopedias often include fake entries. Get caught with such an entry in your competing dictionary, and you've got some pretty compelling evidence of copyright infringement. The New Oxford American Dictionary is the latest to make clear that it resorts to such shenanigans, monkeyshines and flimfalm to flummox its would-be copiers:

[W]hen word leaked out that the recently published second edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary contains a made-up word that starts with the letter “e,” an independent investigator set himself the task of sifting through NOAD’s thirty-one hundred and twenty-eight “e” entries in search of the phony.
. . . .

Six potential [fraud]s emerged. They were:

earth loop—n. Electrical British term for GROUND LOOP.
EGD—n. a technology or system that integrates a computer display with a pair of eyeglasses . . . abbreviation of eyeglass display.
electrofish—v. [trans.] fish (a stretch of water) using electrocution or a weak electric field.
ELSS—abbr. extravehicular life support system.
esquivalience—n. the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities . . . late 19th cent.: perhaps from French esquiver, “dodge, slink away.”
eurocreep—n. informal the gradual acceptance of the euro in European Union countries that have not yet officially adopted it as their national currency.

Link. The smart money, apparently, is on "esquivalience." Next time, rather than relying on a madman, I think Oxford might want to consult this list of neologisms from The Simpsons, including such favorites as "embiggens," "saxomophone," and "steamed hams."

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