‘Idiocracy’ among 1,400 new words in Oxford dictionary

Idiocracy – a government formed of people considered ignorant or idiotic – is among 1,400 new words, senses, and phrases added in the latest update of the Oxford English Dictionary. The dictionary records over 100 words derived ultimately from the Greek suffix -cracy, meaning ‘power’ or ‘rule.’ The new addition idiocracy, refers to a society consisting of or governed by people characterised as idiots, or a government formed of people considered stupid, ignorant, or idiotic.

Words like democracy and aristocracy originated in ancient Greek, but by the 18th century, -ocracy was being added to English words, as in statocracy and mobocracy.

In the 19th century, the trickle of such formations became a flood, with many of the new words being terms of ridicule, a tradition to which idiocracy belongs; the earlier terms foolocracy (1832) and idiotocracy (used by Ambrose Bierce in 1909) express a similar concept.

Idiocracy itself is first attested in 1967, but it owes its current prominence to the title of the satirical 2006 film Idiocracy, which depicts a dystopian future in which the human race has become extremely ignorant, stupid, and anti-intellectual.

The quarterly update also added the term ‘trapo’. In Philippine English, trapo which describes a politician perceived as belonging to a conventional and corrupt ruling class.

Trapo’s is an abbreviation of the English phrase ‘traditional politician’, but with punning allusion to the Tagalog word trapo (‘rag’), which in turn is borrowed from Spanish.

Another new item from Philippine English is the adjective bongga, borrowed from Tagalog, which means extravagant, flamboyant, impressive, stylish, or excellent.

The Oxford English Dictionary undergoes revision four times every year. Apart from new words and phrases, new senses are added to existing words.

Some new entries are in fact extremely old, that were not identified in previous editions.

This update sees the addition of bedunged — that has been soiled with or covered in dung — which is first recorded from the early 15th century.

It persists in modern use, but is now considered archaic or used self-consciously for stylistic effect, as in a newspaper article from 2000 that referred scornfully to ‘the Young British Artists with their bedunged Madonna and mutilated mannequins’.

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