An interesting piece in the Guardian looks at urban dictionaries (well, mainly at the Urban Dictionary). Whilst well-known print dictionaries like the OED can take years to update, urban dictionaries are on the web and can be updated as and when new words and phrases appear.

But, as the article suggests, there are issues with this:

“..slang expert Green’s problem with Urban Dictionary isn’t that it contains offensive words. “It’s amateur hour. They set themselves up as an authority and I don’t believe they are. There aren’t 2,000 new slang words a day – they don’t exist. It undermines the whole point of a dictionary. If you want to have something called The Book Of Amusing Words That Young People Come Up With, then fine, let’s have that. I’ll stick with [Viz comic's] Roger’s Profanisaurus.”

Over 3,500 volunteers edit submissions to Urban Dictionary – but there are masses of them. According to the article, “in the past 30 days 67,000 people wrote 76,000 new definitions”. As Jonathon Green points out, there can’t be that many new words created constantly.

One thing urban dictionaries do better than traditional dictionaries though, is to publish slang words and definitions, and keep them up to date. When the new OED is published (around 2037), many of the slang words we use today will likely have fallen out of favour. In the meantime, we can use Google or the Urban Dictionary to satisfy our curiosity.