Should dictionaries be display cases of literary specimens, demonstrating the natural history of English, constructing a “treasure-house of the language?” Or should they show something more like an open-air menagerie pulsing with ever-changing life, admitting even the newest words and meanings? These are the questions asked by Edward Rothstein in today’s New York Times while investigating the newly published Sixth Edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.
[O]nce description trumps prescription and currency eclipses timelessness, it becomes difficult to capture the slippery shifts in tone and fashion that accompany new words. “Ghetto fabulous” is defined here as “pertaining to or favoring an ostentatious style of dress associated with the hip-hop subculture,” though its use now is broader and sometimes more ambiguous. And “ghetto blaster” should probably be marked obs. (for obsolete).