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Why OUP is ‘amped’ about biryani

After American and Australian, Indian English is the most commonly represented in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD). And the most popular words are food-related.

What is the process behind certain words being included in and others axed from the OALD?

Joanna Turnbull, managing editor, English dictionaries, OUP, who was in the city as part of OUP India’s centenary activities, explained the method.

“We have to limit ourselves in including new words because it’s extremely difficult to take words out,” she said. “The physical product has to be practical for users. We have to be sure that the new words that we put in are worth putting in.”

So, while words like “innit” (a question tag), “chillax” (to relax and stop feeling nervous) and “amped” (to feel excited about something) have found their way in, the editors decided to leave out words like “millennium bulk”, “glasnost” and “perestroika” because they were deemed outdated.

There are about 200 Indian words in the OALD, mostly included in the seventh edition that came out in 2005.

How are such words found?

“We created a corpus of Indian English from sources in the Internet, some journalistic and other sources, compared the usage of words and words in the corpus and compared them with the British national corpus and identified the different words,” Turnbull said.

According to her, the most popular Indian words are related to food: samosa, chapatti, dhansak, biryani, pakora, paneer, masala, korma, curry, tandoori, tikka, vindaloo.

In tune with the times, the digital versions of the dictionary have more example sentences, with word origins and a thesaurus to boot, Turnbull said. “There are some words, particularly those with a lot of example sentences, in the CD-ROM and the apps which the paper dictionary does not have because that would make it voluminous,” she explained.

The ninth version of the OALD will be published in 2015, Turnbull announced.