Want to be fluent in `educationese'? Read the dictionary

31st October 2014 at 00:00
`Ofqual', `EBacc' and `hazing' appear in latest Collins edition

How is the English Baccalaureate like a flat white? What is the connection between a onesie, a selfie and the exams regulator Ofqual?

The answer - to the disappointment of those who hoped to see examination officials taking photos of themselves dressed in adult-sized Babygros - is that these are all words included for the first time in the new edition of the Collins English Dictionary, published this month.

The 12th edition of the Collins dictionary, the largest single-volume English dictionary in print, will include 50,000 new words. Among these are such defining features of the modern era as "bridezilla" (a woman whose behaviour in planning the details of her wedding is regarded as intolerable) and "bucket list" (a list of experiences to have before you die).

But there are also a number of new entries drawn from the world of education. "We monitor language and pick up on words that are coming into publications," said Mary O'Neill, one of the dictionary's managing editors. "It's quite surprising how often education throws up new terms."

Among these is "educationese": the jargon associated with education and teaching. "These `ese' words have certainly come in more recently," Ms O'Neill said. "It's one of those very productive suffixes, which can be added to everything. We sometimes talk in our office about `dictionaryese'."

"We all use jargon," said Mick Connell of the National Association for the Teaching of English. "But we only ever recognise other people's. Jargon is pretentious in others and utterly cutting edge in ourselves."

Other words - such as "Ofqual", "EBacc" and "admissions" - owe their inclusion to periods of near-ubiquity in more ephemeral publications. "Things like `Ofqual' come to our attention because they are being used in the news," Ms O'Neill said. "It increases the number of examples that we find."

Many new entries - "Twitterstorm", "crowdfunding", "livestream" - are internet coinages, describing phenomena that do not exist in the offline world. Other words, such as "humblebrag" (a statement that purports to be self-effacing, but in fact reveals a person's wealth or importance), reflect the need for verbal efficiency in the era of 140-character statements.

The internet has also been responsible for increased use - or, at least, understanding - of American terms on this side of the Atlantic. Among the new education entries are "hazing" (bullying), "college-bound" (intending to go to college) and "upperclassman" (a junior or senior student in a US high school, college or university).

But the internet was only one source of words, Ms O'Neill said - education, too, was remarkably prolific. "As long as new governments are enacting new education policies, we'll find new words coming into the mainstream," she added. "Education is one of the areas to watch, because it's subject to such change."

Mr Connell agreed. "You invent an academy," he said. "Then you have academisation. It's filling the world up with stuff that isn't really there. So meeting the teaching needs of all the children becomes `personalisation'.

"They're saying, `This is not what you heard from the last government. This is entirely new.' The attempt to be innovative and fresh takes us down this phony linguistic path, where everything that follows is somehow different from what went before, just because we have a new label for it."

Word and wonderful

New education entries in the Collins English Dictionary

  • Admissions: the procedure for admitting students to study at a college, university or school.
  • Cheat sheet: crib sheet.
  • College-bound: intending to go to college.
  • Educationese: the jargon associated with education and teaching.
  • Hazing: bullying.
  • Mainstreaming: the act of placing a pupil with special educational needs in a class for those without special educational needs.

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