|Saturday, April 20, 2002||
THROUGH words and phrases language gives the observer cultural signposts about society. The kind of words coined and used are a sure indicator of the subtlest of social trends. Such words may not always find their way into dictionaries; keeping a watch on language users can indicate the trends. A little bit of lexpionage comes in handy here. But, what is lexpionage, please? A blend of lexicon and espionage. Lexicon refers to the vocabulary of a language. It comes from the Greek lexis, word, which takes origin from legein, speak. Espionage, the practice of spying or sleuthing comes from the French espion, spy. The two put together make lexpionage; the sleuthing of new words or of old words used in new ways.
Lists like the Lexis-Nexis
database help to keep track of new words that have not yet reached the
dictionary. The Lexis-Nexis database of major newspapers keeps track
of the top 50 US papers and the top 20 from all over the world to keep
track of new words. For example, ‘work-life balance’ coined in the
early nineties, was noticed in 30 articles from 1992 to 1996. After
1996, the number of articles using it kept on increasing till in 2000
it was noticed in more than 200 articles. Lists like these are useful
for marking cultural signposts and can also be used by dictionaries. A
glance at words making the rounds shows the current career-oriented
and success-driven trend of society.
The kosh of the Hindi shabdkosh or dictionary comes from the Sanskrit kosh. In Hindi, a kosh is a collection or treasure house. The Sanskrit kosh in addition to these meanings carries the sense of a container. This dates back to the Rigveda where a kosh referred to the container in which water was pulled up from the well. This led to today’s kosh as in shabdkosh, a repository of words.