Insinuendo: OED’s Opinions

The Oxford English Dictionary is rightly regarded as a dispassionate authority on English words, recording without fear or favour as many of those little beasts as it can. But OED editors have not always been above a bit of prescriptive snark. Here is a list of opinions Robert Burchfield, editor of the Second Supplement, decided to include in the main text:

LemmaOpinion
insinuendoA tasteless word.
opinionnaireA word of doubtful usefulness.
permanentize, v.A word of little value and rarely found in serious writing.
plusageA word of restricted currency.
pre, prep.Usu. found in contexts where before would be equally appropriate and more agreeable.
prioritize, v.A word that at present sits uneasily in the language.
regretfully, adv.A regrettable use, prob. after hopefully
sanction, v.A use of doubtful acceptability at present.
scenario, sb.The over-use of this word in various loose senses has attracted frequent hostile comment.
spastic, a.Although current for some fifteen years or more, it is generally condemned as a tasteless expression, and is not common in print.
supportative, a.An unnecessary formation, since the shorter supportive is completely established.

I tend to agree about “permanentize” (a word that Google books tells me has not quote managed to permanentize itself). But “insinuendo”!?

It’s amusing that all but one of these “notes” by Burchfield come after “M”, which is to say after he was halfway through editing. This suggests that either words beginning A-O harbour no “tasteless” terms among them, or Burchfield could only control his word-rage so long.


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