Millions of ‘non words’ discovered in secret vault

August 4, 2010 | by | 12 Comments

You may have to go ‘wurfing’ to find out the meaning of ‘polkadodge’ if a colleague casually dropped the wordf into a ‘nonversation’.

But this gobbledygook is an example of millions of ‘non words’ which failed to make the dictionary and lie unused in a secret vault owned by the Oxford University Press.

‘Wurfing’ means surfing the internet at work, while ‘polkadodge’ describes the strange little dance two passing people do when they try to avoid each other but move in the same direction, and ‘nonversation’ denotes a pointless chat.

These words were recently submitted for use in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) but will remain dormant unless they enter common parlance in the future.

Graphic designer Luke Ngakane, 22, uncovered hundreds of ‘non words’ as part of a project for Kingston University, London.

He said: ”I was fascinated when I read that the Oxford University Press has a vault where all their failed words, which didn’t make the dictionary, are kept.

”This storeroom contains millions of words and some of them date back hundreds of years.

”It’s a very hush, hush vault and I really struggled to find out information about it because it is so secretive.

”But when I spoke to them they were happy to confirm its existence and although I didn’t actually get to see the room they did send me some examples.

”I picked out the words that resonated with me and really seemed to fit the purpose they were intended for.

”I get really excited when I hear someone using one of them because if enough people pick them up then maybe they will make it into the dictionary after all.”

Luke researched hundreds of ‘non words’ before choosing 39 to etch onto a metal press plate and print onto A4 paper for his graphic design degree.

His favourite selection from his ‘Dictionary of Non Words’ project include ‘Furgling’, which is the act of fumbling in your pocket for keys or loose change.

Other notable words are ‘Dringle’, which is the watermark left by a glass of liquid, and ‘Earworm’, a catchy tune that frequently gets stuck in your head.

‘Sprogging’, is the act of running slower than a sprint but faster than a jog, while the silver foil coating on scratch cards is given the name ‘Scrax’.

All of these words have been submitted to the Oxford University Press for inclusion in the OED but were judged to be ”unsuitable”.

They now lie in a vault in Oxford alongside millions of other unused words which are written on 6in by 4in cards and stored alphabetically in 50 huge filing cabinets.

Some of these words date back to before 1918, when Lord of The Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien was editor of the OED, but newer ‘non words’ are digitised.

Fiona McPherson, senior editor of the OED’s new words group, denied the words are ”rejects” and said they have every chance of being printed in the future.

She said: ”They are words which we haven’t yet put in. I don’t like calling them reject words because we will revisit them at some point and they may well go in.

”They are not yet considered suitable for the dictionary because there’s not enough evidence that people are using them.

”If a word does come to our attention we can come to this room and check if it’s here. A lot of times people say these words but they are not written down or published.

”We read newspapers or novels and have readers who read through them looking for new examples of existing words or completely new ones.

”We also get people writing in telling us about new words, which is useful. The thing with the OED is anything that goes in never comes out.”

DICTIONARY OF NON WORDS;

Accordionated – being able to drive and refold a road map at the same time
Asphinxiation – being sick to death of unanswerable puzzles or riddles
Blogish – a variety of english that uses a large number of initialisms, frequently used on blogs
Dringle – the watermark left on wood caused by a glass of liquid.
Dunandunate – the overuse of a word or phrase that has recently been added to your own vocabulary
Earworm – a catchy tune that frequently gets stuck in your head
Espacular – something especially spectacular
Freegan – someone who rejects consumerism, usually by eating discarded food
Fumb – your large toe
Furgle – to feel in a pocket or bag for a small object such as a coin or key
Glocalization – running a business according to both local and global considerations
Griefer – someone who spends their online time harassing others
Headset jockey – a telephone call center worker
Lexpionage – the sleuthing of words and phrases
Locavor – a person who tries to eat only locally grown or produced food
Museum head – feeling mentally exhausted and no longer able to take in information; Usually following a trip to a museum
Nonversation – a worthless conversation, wherein nothing is explained or otherwise Elaborated upon
Nudenda – an unhidden agenda
Oninate – to overwhelm with post-dining breath
Optotoxical – a look that could kill, normally from a parent or spouse
Parrotise – a haven for exotic birds especially green ones
Peppier – a waiter whose sole job is to offer diners ground pepper, usually from a large pepper mill
Percuperate – to prepare for the possibility of being ill
Pharming – the practice of creating a dummy website for phishing data
Polkadodge – the dance that occurs when two people attempt to pass each other but move in the same direction
Pregreening – to creep forwards while waiting for a red light to change
Quackmire – the muddy edges of a duck pond
Scrax – the waxy coating that is scratched off an instant lottery ticket
Smushables – items that must be pack at the top of a bag to avoid being squashed
Spatulate – removing cake mixture from the side of a bowl with a spatula
Sprog – to go faster then a jog but slower then a sprint
Sprummer – when summer and spring time can’t decide which is to come first, usually hot one day then cold the next
Stealth-geek – someone who hides their nerdy interests while maintaining a normal outward appearance
Vidiot – someone who is inept at the act of programming video recording equipment
Whinese – a term for the language spoken by children on lengthy trips
Wibble – the trembling of the lower lip just shy of actually crying
Wurfing – the act of surfing the Internet while at work
Wikism – a piece of information that claims to be true but is wildly inaccurate
Xenolexica – a grave confusion when faced with with unusual words

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Comments (12)

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  1. rabidsamfan says:

    I'm surprised that "earworm" hasn't made it in yet. I've been using that word for about ten years. Locavore, not so much, but it's been in the local paper. And wibble gets used quite often on blogs.

    Some of the others though, look like words out of collections of puns.

  2. rabidsamfan says:

    I'm surprised that "earworm" hasn't made it in yet. I've been using that word for about ten years. Locavore, not so much, but it's been in the local paper. And wibble gets used quite often on blogs.

    Some of the others though, look like words out of collections of puns.

  3. Rich Hall says:

    Anyone else remember these emerging as a pop culture trend by comedian Rich Hall on HBO's "Not Necessarily the News" in his hilarious collection of "SNIGLETS"? It spawned about half a dozen books, a calendar or two and I even recall a Sunday newspaper comic strip in there somewhere…

    It's where I got words like:

    Veggimat — the green leafy decorative garnish on a plate, but not meant for eating.

    or

    Lactomangulation — Manhandling the "open here" spout on a milk carton so badly that one has to resort to using the "illegal" side.

  4. Rich Hall says:

    Anyone else remember these emerging as a pop culture trend by comedian Rich Hall on HBO's "Not Necessarily the News" in his hilarious collection of "SNIGLETS"? It spawned about half a dozen books, a calendar or two and I even recall a Sunday newspaper comic strip in there somewhere…

    It's where I got words like:

    Veggimat — the green leafy decorative garnish on a plate, but not meant for eating.

    or

    Lactomangulation — Manhandling the "open here" spout on a milk carton so badly that one has to resort to using the "illegal" side.

  5. Sandy says:

    I would expect "earworm", "locavor", and perhaps "freegan" to make it in very soon. They have been used often in the NY Times and on national TV programs, and I hear people using them more and more in conversation. They are clearly words, even by the definition of the OED. "Peppier" might have to wait a few more years, as it's not used as commonly.

  6. Sandy says:

    I would expect "earworm", "locavor", and perhaps "freegan" to make it in very soon. They have been used often in the NY Times and on national TV programs, and I hear people using them more and more in conversation. They are clearly words, even by the definition of the OED. "Peppier" might have to wait a few more years, as it's not used as commonly.

  7. Erik says:

    “Locavore” was in fact the Oxford University Press’s “word of the year” for 2007: .

  8. Erik says:

    “Locavore” was in fact the Oxford University Press’s “word of the year” for 2007: .

  9. Jon says:

    'Griefer', a person who spends time online harrassing others, already has a word. It's a 'Troll', and is used widely by the online community.

  10. Jon says:

    'Griefer', a person who spends time online harrassing others, already has a word. It's a 'Troll', and is used widely by the online community.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Earworm is imported from German and has been used there for at least half a century, or maybe even a whole century. It existed in the 14th century meaning an actual insect (it was mashed to powder and used to 'cure' ailments of the ear), then got a new meaning in the 20th century, and was stolen by English in the mid/late 1980s.

    Hope that helps!

  12. Lkz says:

    Earworm is imported from German and has been used there for at least half a century, or maybe even a whole century. It existed in the 14th century meaning an actual insect (it was mashed to powder and used to 'cure' ailments of the ear), then got a new meaning in the 20th century, and was stolen by English in the mid/late 1980s.

    Hope that helps!

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