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Wanted: New Words

The Oxford English Dictionary, widely regarded as the ultimate authority on the English language, needs you.

The dictionary has launched a worldwide appeal for words as it prepares to go online to mark the new millennium with the most comprehensive lexicon ever.

With a flood of new words, phrases and technical terms coined in the last 50 years, the dictionary's staff is asking anyone who speaks or reads English to submit new words and documentation to lexicographers working on the first complete revision in the work's 120-year history.

"It's the living record of the English language worldwide," Oxford editor-in-chief Frank Abate told CBS This Morning's Russ Mitchell.

"As English becomes more of a world phenomenon and is the language that's used in so many places, it's important that we keep track of what's going on," he said.

For a sampling of new words, CBS This Morning took to the streets and asked people what they thought some new words meant.

Most people knew what yadda, yadda, yadda meant. The dictionary definition will say it is a filler that indicates what follows in a conversation is humdrum and uninteresting.

Affluenza was not as well-known. It is not a disease or a rich person with a cold but rather extreme materialism whereby a person will actually go into debt to buy things.

And a mouse potato is not a tater tot as one woman thought; it is someone who is on the computer all the time.

As the Oxford dictionary makes the transition onto the Internet, software giant Microsoft Corp is moving its new dictionary into the world of print.

Last week print versions of the Encarta World English Dictionary were published in Britain, the United States and Australia. The dictionary will also be available in a CD-ROM version.

Microsoft says its dictionary takes a global perspective, emphasizing how the Internet has helped make English a world language, since a majority of Web sites are written in English.

More than 300 experts from 20 English-speaking countries used computer and Internet technology to compile the lexicon, which was three years in the making.

The revision of the Oxford English Dictionary is scheduled to be completed by 2010, but the latest edition - 20 volumes published in 1996 - will be available online in March. The staff expect to to update it every six months with incoming contributions.

And because the dictionary will be online, it will have no limits.

"It can grow as big as the language," said Michelle McKenna, spokeswoman for the dictionary's U.S. office. "The idea is just mind-boggling when you think of getting the whole language down so that it is all there as a reflection of who we are."

The appeal for words is no mere marketing gimmick. Published evidence must accompany the words or phrases submitted to the Oxford dictionary, so contributors will have to do research.

Entres can be submitted at the the Oxford English Dictionary Web site.

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