Are you guilty of using wordos?

by | Feb 29, 2016 | Blog | 0 comments

2016-01-27 13.49.06Happy birthday, Wordnik!

Originally incorporated on February 29, 2008, Wordnik is celebrating its first birthday since its successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign to add a million missing words to the dictionary.

Wordnik’s mission is to “find and share as many words of English as possible with as many people as possible.”

Even before the Kickstarter campaign, Wordnik was the world’s biggest online English dictionary in terms of the number of words.

Yet, Wordnik faced two challenges from some users’ points of view.

First, many words are so new that they don’t have documented definitions yet. And second, Wordnik was not yet allowing user-contribute words or definitions.

The Kickstarter campaign is helping change that. The $58,407 raised is going toward turning these lexical “dark matter” terms into words that have their own distinct definitions that people can find, annotate and discuss. As Wordnik founder Erin McKean says, “every words deserves to be lookupable.”

Also during the campaign, resourceful backers like me used the opportunity to adopt new words, which by definition (pun intended) are part of the million missing words.

My word is wordo, which I’ve used informally for years.

To me, the definition of wordo is the correct spelling of a real word that’s used incorrectly in the context.

The wordo will pass spellcheck—because it’s not technically a “typo.” Wordos also often escape the gaze of an overworked colleague or even a professional editor, but the words don’t make sense when read carefully.

Recent wordos from me include:

  • “Coach potato” instead of “couch potato.”
  • “Port Arthur” instead of “Port Allen.”
  • “He” instead of “The.”

Then there’s this wordo that I wish I could claim because it’s a good Freudian slip too, but instead it belongs to one of my clients:

  • “Meeting invoice” instead of “meeting invite.”

A fellow Wordnik community member has commented that humans do not bear all the responsibility for wordos.

Spellcheck can get carried away and change the word. This is “spellcheckos” (plural like geckos), as named by a fellow Wordnik community member.

While the folks at Wordnik share Humpty Dumpty’s philosophy that “words mean what we want them to mean,” those of us who work in organizational settings need to respect accepted definitions.

Otherwise, by running roughshod with definitions, we can confuse our colleagues or give them ammunition to say we’re trying to conceal important information from them or even trick them.

Words do matter, so we’ve got to choose them carefully and spell them even more cautiously.

As far as I know, my wordos have never gotten me in trouble, but there’s always a first time…. Meanwhile, I’ll wear my Wordnik badge with pride.

If you’re interested, you can review the list of all the adopted words from the Kickstarter campaign here. And you can learn more about the campaign’s back story from this New York Times article, Scouring the web to make new words lookupable

What’s your favorite wordo? Also, if you have helpful tips on avoiding wordos, please share.


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