Tuesday, April 19, 2016

15,842 New Words: Shtum kids. Shtum. Dad's trying to take a nap.

“Must be tough,” says Jonah, “your father being so far away.”

 I shrug. Mum told me to keep shtum about the divorce.

Slade House: A Novel (p. 16)

Shtum means to be quiet or noncommunicative. It's a Yiddish word of relatively modern origin, dating back only to the 1950s. Who knew they were still inventing words in the 1950s? It seems like we'd have had all the words by then.

To have a word recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary, there have to be several uses of the word, for a reasonable amount of time (generally at least 10 years). The OED looks for word-usage that is not immediately followed by an explanation of the word; their reasoning is that a word can't be in common usage if it has to be explained constantly.

Apropos of nothing, "almost" entered the English language in 1330. Just thought you'd want to know.

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