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Getting L33t Into the Oxford English Dictionary 167

Posted by samzenpus
from the every-word-on-the-bus dept.
arcticstoat writes "A few net-speak acronyms such as LOL and OMG were entered to the Oxford English Dictionary last month, but could we ever see l33t-speak (complete with numbers) or ROFLcopters in the OED? In this interview with OED principal editor Graeme Diamond, he reveals the selection criteria for new words and discusses the potential for words such as 'l33t' to get into the dictionary. 'L33t is obviously a respelling and a contraction [of elite],' says Diamond, 'so it would be a separate entry, and yes it is familiar to me, so I think it's something we would consider for inclusion.'"
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Getting L33t Into the Oxford English Dictionary

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  • Allow me (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    l33t

    Pronunciation: /e'lE:t/

    1.Superior.
    eg "Gibb0r m3 j00r l33t ju4r3z!"
  • It'd be time to give the cockroaches a go when that happens.

    • " ... 'L33t is obviously a respelling and a contraction [of elite],' says Diamond, 'so it would be a separate entry, and yes it is familiar to me, so I think it's something we would consider for inclusion.'"

      On the plus side, I no longer feel guilty about using dictionary.reference.com rather than the Oxford English Dictionary.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        " ... 'L33t is obviously a respelling and a contraction [of elite],' says Diamond, 'so it would be a separate entry, and yes it is familiar to me, so I think it's something we would consider for inclusion.'"

        On the plus side, I no longer feel guilty about using dictionary.reference.com rather than the Oxford English Dictionary.

        I hope you're not one of the many /.ers who complains when Wikipedia deletes entries ;-)

      • by _Shad0w_ (127912)

        Why? A dictionary's job is to track the definition and usage of words, not to actually decide what those definitions and usages are. A dictionary that fails to do that, for whatever reason, is in fact failing to do what it's intended to do.

        An OED subscription is one of the best investments I've ever made.

    • by ajs (35943)

      It'd be time to give the cockroaches a go when that happens.

      As a friend of mine once pointed out: language is not just about communicating information, it's (possibly just as importantly) about hiding it.

      More specifically, we modify language in order to identify members of our social groups in ways that those outside of those groups do not understand. As a social group gains dominance, so too do their modifications to the language. Of course, the process of gaining a dominant position in a human society is an inherently contentious one.

      This is why the parent post is

      • by Nimey (114278)

        We don't stick thieves' cant into the OED.

        It's about time for a Final Solution for the Descriptivist Question.

        • by Xtifr (1323)

          There's plenty of thieves' cant in the OED. Why shouldn't the dictionary document the language that people actually speak and write, rather than some made-up pseudo-platonic "ideal" language that bears only a faint resemblance to an actual human language. And what's the difference between a "prescriptivist" in linguistics and a creationist in biology? At least descriptivists do something that actually resembles science. The prescriptivists (like the creationists) don't seem to contribute anything more u

          • by wisty (1335733)

            Prescriptivists claim that dictionaries and grammars should be style guides, or pedagogical tools. Descriptivists pretend to be more scientific.

            The reality is, descriptivists are closet (or raging) liberals, who are happy to leave minorities in the ghetto, without a guide out. And prescriptivists are conservatives, who see themselves guiding the uneducated into the light.

            The difference is, prescriptivists know both sides of the argument, as they were young and naive once too.

  • by Tolkien (664315) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @09:33AM (#35744586) Journal
    A series of letters containing numbers doesn't make it a word. "Leet".. retarded but okay. L33t? Wtf is wrong with these people?
    • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @09:35AM (#35744614) Homepage Journal

      I was going to agree with you but then realized your username could be written as 70lk13n and calmed down.
    • by N0Man74 (1620447)

      I definitely agree here. Just because 'Leet' is commonly written with numeric substitutions more often than many other words doesn't mean it should be put in a dictionary as such. A huge number of words are either commonly or slightly less written such substitutions, abbreviations, and letter order swaps (and not even in the same way for each word).

      Listing these would be nearly the equivalent of a dictionary beginning to start listing common misspellings of words too.

      • by AlecC (512609) <aleccawley@gmail.com> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @09:59AM (#35744932)

        If something often appears in written texts, the OED should list it. The idea is that someone encountering an unfamiliar word should be able to use the OED to find what it it means. The OED differs from some other dictionaries in this matter: it is descriptive, not prescriptive. If a word is or was used often enough with a definable meaning in the written corpus, the OED intends to list it.

    • It's my understanding that the OED should reflect the evolving lexicon of English. If L33T is used widely enough I don't see why it shouldn't be added.
    • by djmurdoch (306849)

      How can they include "l33t" when they don't even include "gullible"?

    • A dictionary is used to look up words when you don't know what they mean.

      Imagine somebody encountering the characters "l33t" for the first time. Would they have any idea that the 3's were substitutes for e's?

      If you don't know what the word "turnip" means, you go look in the dictionary. If you don't know what the word "l33t" means, you go look in the dictionary. What's the difference?

      • by Tolkien (664315)
        Are the numbers so subtle that you didn't notice them?
      • by tyrione (134248)
        Well I sure as hell don't see a short for 'elite' leaping to mind. I agree about gullible not being in there is long overdue and this chicken scratch with numerals being short-hand for another formal word doesn't even have a place in slang.
      • Problem: Where would it sort out to? Before the "la"s? After the "lz"s? Exactly where "leet" would fit? Maybe you spell out the numbers, so it would fit somewhere in the "lt" section?
        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Why is this a problem? There are already clearly defined rules for sorting alphanumeric strings.

          • There are already clearly defined rules for sorting alphanumeric strings.

            I know. I illustrated several of them.

    • by ajs (35943)

      "Leet".. retarded but okay.

      There's no developmental deficiency (cognitive or otherwise) involved in the creation of contractions. In English, we've often denoted these with apostrophes, but they're not required. Adding new contractions to the language is usually a gradual process, and I'm sure the same will be true for leet... it's been in use for the better part of a generation, now, so it's definitely getting to the point that we should consider it seriously.

      L33t? Wtf is wrong with these people?

      The OED, contrary to what some may feel about it, isn't an arbiter of lang

    • According to IBM, isn't a word just a sequence of non-blank characters separated by blanks?
    • Besides, it should be |337 anyway.

  • > yes it is familiar to me, so I think it's something we would consider for inclusion.

    And people wonder why I laugh at them when they hold up the OED as a source to be taken seriously.

    • by hengdi (1202709)

      The OED wants to be the recorder of living language, not to set rules in stone for future generations. There's nothing wrong with that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AlecC (512609)

      Why do you not take the OED seriously? Do you believe it lists words not in use, or that it gives incorrect definitions.

      One thing it does not do, which you may be expecting, is make any judgement about /proper/ usage. It is descriptive, not prescriptive. If you are expecting guidance as to good usage, look elsewhere. But take the OED as a source of actual, as opposed to good, usage.

      • One thing it does not do, which you may be expecting, is make any judgement about /proper/ usage. It is descriptive, not prescriptive. If you are expecting guidance as to good usage, look elsewhere.

        Don't fret poor logophiles (or linguists) Oxford University Press [oup.com] has that covered too, Fowler's Modern English Usage [oup.com], 2004 edited by R. W. Burchfield, is about as suitable as anything to be the authority in a single volume.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      My primary objection is score inflation in scrabble.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      They wonder because the OED gives the etymology of each term and thus tells you how it is considered appropriate to use by the majority when the term is coined. Have you ever browsed the unabbreviated OED? It's a fantastic journey.

    • by Dhalka226 (559740)

      I assume it has something to do with you being an arrogant ass?

      If you don't agree with their criteria for considering words for inclusion, that's fine. And if that causes you to not take them seriously, that's fine too. But to suggest, even hyperbolically, that you actually laugh at people who disagree with your assessment says far more about you than it does about them or about the OED.

  • Etymology (Score:5, Funny)

    by brian0918 (638904) <brian0918NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @09:37AM (#35744654)
    Here is the first known use of the term:

    Rychard Byschape in his stede Chosyn he wes concorditer And l33t twa yhere bad eftyr.

    -- Andrew of Wyntoun, Ðe orygynale cronykil of Scotland c1425

  • by guyminuslife (1349809) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @09:49AM (#35744796)

    Oxford English Dictionary:

    l33t adj. 1. elite, highly adept esp. referring to a video game player, 2. worthy of praise
    "Dude, the OED put in an entry for l33t! That's some l33t dictionary pwnage!"
    -- some Anonymouse Coward on Slashdot

    "His crown, a noble emblem of defeat
    For those who would make light of being l33t."
    --- William Shakespeare

    "STFU NOOB, UR JUST JEALOUS CUZ WERE L33T AND U SUCK ASS"
    --- sipherot299lol, an anemic 13-year-old about to get a cap in his virtual avatar's ass

  • by eln (21727) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @09:50AM (#35744804) Homepage
    Anyone who could legitimately be called "l33t" would have hacked the Gibson and added the word to the OED themselves rather than asking for permission.
  • by MaWeiTao (908546) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @09:51AM (#35744810)

    Can't we just have a separate dictionary for slang? Does every stupid fad term have to be added to the dictionary? Who even uses leet anymore?

    Apparently Oxford's standards for inclusion of new words is rather low. But then I'm guessing they're desperate to keep themselves relevant.

    • by Happler (895924)

      Considering the amount of words in there already that, at one point in their life or another, where considered slang...

      no.

    • Re:Absurd. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by penguinchris (1020961) <penguinchris.gmail@com> on Thursday April 07, 2011 @10:16AM (#35745188) Homepage

      Two things - first, look at urbandictionary.com. Yes, you can find essentially any slang term there if you already heard it - but you'll get hundreds of alternate definitions, and then there are thousands of terms people have added that are not actually widely used slang. If you were unfamiliar with English slang and tried to use that source, you'd have major problems. That's not to say that a better implementation isn't possible (and there are printed slang dictionaries already that are carefully edited), it just illustrates many of the problems in undertaking such a task.

      Second, the OED apparently wishes to be a source of information about how the language is actually used - it updates things as meanings change over time. So you can read something written in not-necessarily-the-Queen's-English, probably online, and look up new words and slang and understand them. Other dictionaries don't do this as aggressively. The OED contains *many* slang terms, but only adds them once they've gained demonstrable widespread cultural impact. Whether or not "leet" or "l33t" qualifies is a separate debate, but you have to understand what the OED is trying to do in order to say whether or not such slang should be included at all, and they've already decided that it should be.

      I don't generally use much slang, nor do I often consult a dictionary, but I agree that widespread slang belongs in a dictionary of actual English usage and in other respects the OED is certainly a fine dictionary as far as I can tell.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      You do realize that a considerable portion of the dictionary is dedicated to slang and typos, right? I realize that there's a lot of l33t English majors out there that stroke off whenever somebody misspells something, but such people really ought to just go fornicate with some sort of sharp pointy object, and leave the language to those that actually use it.

      • by delinear (991444)
        Agreed. It always makes me chuckle to hear people (especially English teachers who should know better) decry the use of slang and yet hark back to Shakespeare as a paragon of the language, despite the fact that, at the time, he riddled his works with slang, and even words he invented, to make them more accessible to the people. Language is primarily about communication, tying ourselves to an archaic set of rules doesn't advance that goal, it's just elitism. Sorry, I really didn't intend the pun!
      • What to do.. what to do... English majors having a cardiovascular accident at a misspelling would be "stroking out", but "stroking off" *does* go better with the invitation to go fornicating.

    • by Punto (100573)

      watch this:

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/video/0006-slang.htm [merriam-webster.com]

      your problem is not the inclusion of slang in the dictionary, it's the inclusion of slang in everyday culture. the dictionary is just there to document it

    • I think that we have to remember the theory behind the OED. The OED is an avowedly *descriptive* dictionary. It's goal is to define words as they are or have been used. It is also massive, and attempts to capture as many words as possible, to be definitive about the language, or at least the British version of it. Browse through the OED and you'll find words that are antiquated slang that haven't been used since the 18th century, things like that. "Leet" or "1337" or whatever would seem to fit in there some
    • by xaxa (988988)

      Do you know how big the full OED is? It takes up about a whole shelf in a city library. There's thousands of words you and I will never, ever use, so there's plenty of room to document slang.

  • Well I guess if no-one is going to read the article [bit-tech.net] anyway...
  • by MancunianMaskMan (701642) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @09:58AM (#35744908)
    I thought it's spelt 1337.

    OED, get it right

    • by qmaqdk (522323)

      Correct. Coincidentally it also denotes the time of day known as leet-o-clock.

  • Seriously, I need some ammo to beat my grandmother at Scrabble for once. She's getting pretty old and I'd like to win a few games against her before she kicks it.
    • by xaxa (988988)

      Seriously, I need some ammo to beat my grandmother at Scrabble for once. She's getting pretty old and I'd like to win a few games against her before she kicks it.

      You can't, as both are marked as abbreviations. (Just like... erm, other pronounceable abbreviations. PAYE? I can't think of anything else right now.)

      http://oxforddictionaries.com/ [oxforddictionaries.com] (lol and omg are included.)

  • lemmatisation (Score:5, Informative)

    by carndearg (696084) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @10:31AM (#35745352) Homepage Journal
    I'm an OUP employee, I work on http://oxforddictionaries.com/ [oxforddictionaries.com] and I sit just over a partition from the OED team so I guess I'm well placed to comment on this one. For a start, it already is in our dictionaries. http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/leet [oxforddictionaries.com] . Unfortunately though they have lemmatised it (rendered it into its simplest form) as the rather lame-sounding 'leet' rather than '1337'. Hey, give them a break, they're English graduates! This probably has a root in their research. Analysing the corpus to find out how much the word is used, they are probably ignoring numbers because their job is to look for words. This infographic showing our inclusion process might be illuminating: http://oxforddictionaries.com/page/newwordflowchart/how-a-new-word-enters-an-oxford-dictionary [oxforddictionaries.com]
  • by catmistake (814204) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @10:42AM (#35745500) Journal
    There's the traditional one... and then there's the one for misspelled words, made-up words, internet anachronisms, lolcat and 1337-speak.
    • A 'traditional' dictionary has always included entries for misspelled words, made-up words, anachronisms, slang, and dialects. It is a collection of common usage, nothing more and nothing less.

    • by gman003 (1693318)
      No point. Any dictionary worth mentioning, and many that aren't, has notes on the usage of a word. "Slang", "Vulgar", "Archaic" and "Alternate Spelling" are common. Some dictionaries will even note "Regional Dialect", "Technical Jargon", "Pidgin English", and even "Americanism". I don't think it would be that hard for them to add "Internet Slang", "Fictional Language" and "Marketing Speak" to that.
    • Um... aren't all words made up?
    • Where do you draw the line for 'Traditional' English. Shakespeare-like language? Chaucer-like language? Modern English is basically all corruptions of old English.

  • To my memory l33t speak has its roots in the 'hacker' (or more correctly 'cracker') subculture. First started appearing on warez releases which would advertise BBS numbers, sometimes listing the numbers in plain text (for anyone to access) and sometimes listing as 'elite only' (meaning private access)

    As time passed 'l33t' started appearing when refering to those with access to the private numbers. It was used sincerely for a short period, but soon turned into a term solely for mockery. 'l33t speak' followed

    • As I recall the original thrust of 1337-speak was to attempt to avoid automated network keyword detectors (hypothetically operated by investigative and law enforcement agencies) by distorting the words so they were still readable (with some effort) but would be missed by simple word and phrase detection software. As such they were supposed to be continually warping.

      Of course the distortions (both of symbol or symbol group substitution and word contraction and modification) quickly became sufficiently stand

  • by Xacid (560407) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @10:45AM (#35745542) Journal

    I pretty much outright stopped giving a shit about dictionaries the moment one of them added "bling bling" to it. Raise the bar a little, guys. Geez. That's what urbandictionary is for.

  • I understand putting LOL and OMG because they are abbr. but putting in a word that is originally formed from a misspelling is a bit of an insult for the American language. I thought only correctly spelled words went into the dictionary?
    • I thought only correctly spelled words went into the dictionary?

      Absolutely not. A dictionary attempts to document the language as it is actually used, not prescribe some standard for it. Different dictionaries concentrate on different parts of the language for different purposes. The OED's range is one of the broadest, as it tries to cover all variants of the English language and its entire history.

      (Exceptions to this are languages (notably: French) which have a ruling body prescribing a single "correct

      • by DrVomact (726065)

        Standardized spelling and grammar, on the other hand, was something the education establishment in the United States attempted to impose. This has had limited success. Its main effect has been to promote the east-coast regional variant of the language as "correct" and that users of other variants do so because they are stupid or ignorant. This helps the self-proclaimed urban elites delude themselves - and others - that they are more intelligent and thus suited to rule.

        So standardized spelling and grammar is nothing more than an oppressive political plot, huh? You don't think it might just possibly enhance the clarity of written communication to have some standards to which everyone can appeal? How is standard English orthography prejudicial against the West Coast, as you seem (perhaps somewhat carelessly) to imply? Or against the South? Or Wyoming? Ah, but you clearly don't have to advance any arguments for your all-encompassing assertions, just the mere witless assertio

  • Very much a confused provenance.
  • by Drakkenmensch (1255800) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @12:53PM (#35747846)
    How something that started as a trick to get around online profanity filters is on the verge of receiving official academic recognition?
    • Isn't it remarkable how something that started as a trick to get around online profanity filters is on the verge of receiving official academic recognition?

      (Or hypothesized law enforcement spyware...)

      Not at all.

      Many linguistic constructions, from slang to entire dialects, started as a way to communicate without being understood and attacked by an opposing group with power over the speakers.

  • by Alsee (515537)

    3 3 4 O O U U

    God damn it, I HATE when I don't draw any consonants.
    I'll pass my turn and draw seven new tiles.

    -

    • by hellkyng (1920978)

      My three letter scrabble skills are leet (1337):

      4O3 as in the garden implement alternatively known as hoe.

  • by kuzb (724081) on Thursday April 07, 2011 @02:57PM (#35749718)

    People are fucking morons, and this proves it. This is exactly the kind of unintelligent trash that needs to be kept out of the dictionary. The people who maintain the oxford-english dictionary should be fired.

  • It is a way of "encoding" words. While l33t is the most common example, 1337 is also common and every other word in the english language has at least a few variations in ll33t speak and they cannot all be included.

  • I can live with ain't and gansta, and using who instead of whom in all cases. But lol was being add to the OED was bad enough. l33t in its many for being added to the OED would be an atrocity!
  • Obviously the root of the word is Elite.

    And yes it came from the underground BBS scene in the 80's.

    But the true meaning came from the original Courier line of Modems.

    Recall that we were stuck at 2400 baud forever on modems, and so Courier invented a new line of modems that would do 9600 baud.

    They called it the "Courier Elite"

    There were two downsides to this, only one of them important: you could only connect at 9600 baud with another Courier Elite. This was important because these modems were going for $6

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