The Oxford English Dictionary has finally gotten around to acknowledging that tweeting isn’t just for the birds.
In its latest update, the dictionary that describes itself as “the accepted authority on the evolution of the English language over the last millennium” has revamped the entry for “tweet” to include its social networking usage.
Although the move may seem behind the curve given the widespread use of “tweet” to refer to activity on Twitter, the dictionary’s chief editor says he’s actually broken one of its rules by including it so soon.
“A new word needs to be current for ten years before consideration for inclusion,” John Simpson wrote on the dictionary’s website. “But it seems to be catching on.”
The dictionary’s entry for tweet now includes the verb — “to make a posting on the social networking service Twitter” — and the noun — “a posting made on the social networking service Twitter.”
They sit alongside the well established bird-related definitions of the word, whose traces go as far back as the 16th century, according to the dictionary.
By recognizing that people can tweet, too, the main Oxford English Dictionary is playing catch up with its smaller, snappier cousin, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.
The concise dictionary, a different product that seeks to be “progressive and up to date,” already included the word “retweet” — meaning to repost or forward a message posted by another user on Twitter — in its 12th edition in 2011.
But the mother dictionary, which began life in the 19th century and contains information on more than 600,000 words, tends to move more cautiously in adding and revising entries, something it does four times a year.
It has nonetheless ingested several new tech-related words in this month’s update, along with “tweet.” They include “big data,” “crowdsourcing,” “e-reader” and “mouseover.”
And in a belated nod to 1990s pop culture, the dictionary has also just added the Bart Simpson catchphrase “to have a cow.”
Simpson — the dictionary’s editor, not the cartoon character — points out that while Bart made the slang term popular, its use can be traced back to 1959.
That means it took more than half a century to find its way into the dictionary’s pages, a far longer journey than the rapid rise of the non-avian “tweet.”