new words for new things or ideas isn't new. New words - linguists
call them 'coinages' - are as old as the English language itself.
Melvyn Bragg explores the history of linguistic innovation from
the Middle Ages, through the inventiveness of the Industrial
Revolution, to the latest creations of the new technology.
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and not so new
that we now think of as exclusively 20th century were named
well before the last century began. 'Contact lens' dates from
1888, 'parachute' was coined in 1785 and even 'commuter' began
as early as 1865. As Elizabeth Knowles, lexicographer at the
Oxford University Press, explains, the process of 'coining'
goes on all the time.
did that call it that?
How do new words
or 'coinages' come about? For example, thousands of new terms
came into being in the 20th century - and lexicographer John
Ayto is familiar with all of them! He has found that 'coinages'
tend to happen in particular ways.
and new words
With the coming
of the Industrial Revolution and the great interest in science,
many more new words entered the language. Roy Porter, Professor
in the Social History of Medicine at the Wellcome Institute,
describes some of the ups and downs of scientific naming.
clocks, 'rams' in industrial use - Katie Lowe, from Glasgow
University, was fascinated by the number of scientific terms
with some kind of animal origin. Here she is talking to engineer
Dr Denis Smith at the Science Museum.
The 20th century
has been the most active, linguistically speaking, of all time.
The Oxford Dictionary records nearly 100,000 new items - that's
20% more than all the words coined over the last 1000 years!
Roy Porter and Katie Lowe talk about just what gives some 'coinages'
real staying power.