Sunday, November 23, 2008

Meh chosen for 30th anniversary of Collins English Dictionary

From The Times November 17, 2008

Ben Hoyle, Arts Reporter

There is nothing meh about the journey of the latest entry in the Collins English Dictionary. Rather, it illustrates how e-mail and the internet are creating language.
“Meh” started out in the US and Canada as an interjection signifying mediocrity or indifference and has evolved, via the internet and an episode of The Simpsons, into a common adjective meaning boring, apathetic or unimpressive in British English.
The word was chosen over hundreds of others nominated by the public for inclusion in the 30th anniversary edition of the dictionary, to be published next year. Jargonaut, frenemy and huggles were among entries suggested to the Word of Mouth campaign, run in conjunction with Waterstone’s. The panel that made the final selection chose meh because of its frequent use today.
Meh was submitted by Erin Whyte, from Nottingham, who defined it as “an expression of utter boredom or an indication of how little you care for an idea”. The dictionary will say that meh can be used as an interjection to suggest indifference or boredom – or as an adjective to say something is mediocre or a person is unimpressed.
Collins has been aware for some time of the growing use of meh in written and spoken language. The word is widely used on the internet and is appearing in British spoken English as well as in print media.
Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries, said: “This is a new interjection from the US that seems to have inveigled its way into common speech over here.
“It was actually spelt out in The Simpsons, when Homer is trying to prise the kids away from the TV with a suggestion for a day trip. They both just reply ‘meh’ and keep watching TV; he asks again and Lisa says, ‘We said MEH! – MEH, meh!’
“Internet and e-mail are playing a big part in formalising the spellings of vocal interjections like these. Other examples would be hmm and heh, which are both now ubiquitous online and in e-mails. People are increasingly writing in a register somewhere in between spoken and written English.”
Elaine Higgleton, the editorial director at Collins Dictionaries, said: “We ran this campaign to encourage the public to tell us about the words that they use every day, but that aren’t in the dictionary.
“We want to make sure that Collins dictionaries include everyone’s words.”