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January, 2008

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Official Words From Pop Culture
A Wonky World
By  M. Y. Mim

From crunk to punk-funk, from DO'H! to guggle the OED adds only the select.
When the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) declares Doh is a "real" word, Authority hath spoken. You may now use Homer Simpson's favourite exclamation without quotation marks.

As a writer, I've always been fascinated with words and how new words are introduced to the lexicon.
"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe."
As a Mim, I am particularly attracted to Lewis Carroll's famous nonsense poem The Jabberwocky, its first and last stanza quoted above. Did you know that the poem introduced four new words into the official vocabulary? Before Carroll, we didn't use burble (to bubble and make a bubbling noise, hence to speak excitedly and confusingly, to jabber), chortle (to sing or chant exultantly; to laugh or chuckle, especially in satisfaction or exultation), galumph (meant to suggest gallop and triumph), or gyre (to move in a circular motion).

The OED explains how new words become a part of the dictionary:

"The aim of the OED is to provide a record of how the English language is and has been used in writing and in speech. Whether a word is new or long obsolete, its meaning can only be determined by looking at examples of it in use.

"The first step in creating or revising an entry is therefore to collect evidence of words and phrases in use from all over the English-speaking world.

"Examples of many thousands of new words are collected each year, and we have to choose which of them to include in the OED.

"As well as looking out for new words, we also monitor the changing usage of existing words so that their entries can be accurately revised.

"From the evidence of how a word is used, we can determine its meaning and write the definition. Extra research, using electronic resources and libraries, ensures the definition is complete and accurate."

Four new additions come from the world of music.

The great-sounding noun "crunk" derives from a very specific source: A word of fluctuating meaning, used during the 1990s in lyrics of the rap groups OutKast and Lil Jon & The East Side Boyz., "Crunk" now means a type of hip-hop or rap music characterized by repeated shouted catchphrases and elements typical of electronic dance music, such as prominent bass; specifically, a style of Southern rap music featuring repetitive chants and rapid dance rhythms.

The delightful noun "punk-funk" is the term coined by and used to describe Rick James's music. The canonical example is his Street Songs album. The band A Certain Ratio has also been described as punk-funkfor scratchy guitar and bass lines.

Music trends also gave us "turntablism," the art of manipulating sounds and creating music using phonograph turntables and a DJ mixer. The term was created in 1994 by DJ Babu to describe the difference between a DJ who just plays records, and one who actually performs, by touching and moving the records to manipulate sound. A DJ (another word introduced from popular culture into the officiallanguage) who practices turntablism is known as a "turntablist."

And what word-lover could possibly resist "onomatopoeic guggle"? You've no doubt downed your coffee while guggling before reading this article. As a verb, "guggle" means to make a sound like a liquid that is being poured from a bottle, or to flow in an irregular current with a bubbling noise.

You might have heard the guggle of the coffee machine working. The noun "guggle" means resonance, ring, clangour, bell-note, tintinnabulation, vibration, reverberation. The guggle sound strikes a low note, defined by the OED as a low, base, bass, flat, grave, deep note; bass; basso [It.], basso profondo [It.]; baritone, contralto; pedal point, organ point.

Another verb definition allows us to guggle the coffee: to drink from a flask with a gurgling sound.

As the turntablist gyred to some punk funk with crunk, the galumphing dancers burbled and chortled, all the while guggling their Tequila Sunrises. Doh!

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About the Author: M. Y. Mim is a free-lance journalist based in Santa Barbara, Ca., with 30-plus years professional experience as a writer, artist and marketing specialist, She may be reached at, or through her agent R. Almqvist, 805-705-5349. The author wishes to thank Mr. Almqvist for his assistance in making this article possible.


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