Word of the Week

Photo courtesy of McKenna Teigland

Hoverboard

By MCKENNA TEIGLAND

What I am about to tell you will probably elicit the same reaction that it elicited from me: the word “hoverboard” was only added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) September of this year. “Back to the Future Part II” was released in 1989 and we use the term colloquially on a fairly regular basis. And yet, it is just now that the word has been officially accepted into our vernacular.

Now, if you are anything like me, our collective understanding of “hoverboard” is why this is so shocking. The word “telly” was also just added to the OED, and that British slang has been cross-culturally accepted for years. The question for “hoverboard,” then, is what changed? Why add this word now? After all, clearly a word does not need to be in a dictionary in order for us to use and understand it; the OED definition for it is just, “a board, resembling a skateboard without wheels, which hovers above the ground and may be ridden like a skateboard.” We by no means needed this clarification.

Simply put, it is a rather unique reflection of our current modern culture, and where that culture believes it is going. At this point in time, the only real reason that we would induct a science fiction term into our language is if we think that it is no longer going to be fiction. In fact, the way the hoverboard is going, this is already true. Even though they are far from being a consumer product and are not particularly practical outside of a testing facility, hoverboard technology is in development right now. Some of these prototypes are making use of air, while others are working with magnets, but all of them are looking toward a marketing future, in which case, their product — for the sake of capitalism and for the sake of science — needs to be legitimized. Thus, the OED accepts the word “hoverboard” into its ranks.

So, this seemingly inconsequential alteration of language is actually a pretty nifty indicator of much greater developments going on in this great big world of ours. In other words, we’re all that much closer to being Marty McFly. The future is bright.

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