From Uptalk to Oompa-Loompa: the most interesting new editions to the Oxford English Dictionary

In order to keep up with the breakneck speed of language development in the internet age, the Oxford English Dictionary (or ‘OED’ for short) adds hundreds of new word each quarter. Today Translations takes a look at some of the more interesting linguistic additions.


One thing that won’t get you very far in the business world is uptalk, or the act of ending declarative statements with an upwards inflection. Making statements sound like questions infers uncertainty and can undermine the point you’re trying to make. Although, according to some sources, ‘uptalk-ers’ won’t make it past the interview!

To say “Have a nice day” in uptalk, raise the last syllable as though you are asking a question: “Have a nice day?”


The non-apology won’t make you popular amongst your colleagues either. Common in the political and public relations spheres, this is a statement that takes the form of an apology, but does not express genuine contrition.

A classic example is “If my question struck anyone as offensive, I am sorry, as that certainly was not my intention.” Wherein the speaker manages to avoid saying what they did was actually wrong.


One of the interesting international additions to the OED is Hongbao. Taken directly from the Mandarin pronunciation 紅包 hóngbāo, these are the red envelopes containing money traditionally exchanged as gifts in East Asia at the lunar New Year. The term not only recognises the ever-increasing economic and cultural influence of Mainland China, but also the recent e-commerce boom around the hongbao themselves. During just the 24 hours of Chinese New Years Eve, 420 million users of the WeChat social media service exchanged 8.08 billion digital red envelopes. That’s more than the one for every person on Earth!

“With so many nieces and nephews, I’m having to use my savings for their hongbao!”

Splendiferous and Scrumdiddlyumptious

This round of new and revised entries also includes many used by famous author Roald Dahl to celebrate one hundred years since his birth. These include splendiferous – meaning splendid and grand, and scrumdiddlyumptious – meaning to taste great.

“A splendiferous party must include some scrumdiddlyumptious food.”

Oompa Loompa

Another Dahl-ism entering what many consider to be the gatekeeper of the English language is Oompa Loompa. However it concedes that in popular parlance it is more often used to describe someone overly fond of fake tanning products and thus resembling Willy Wonka’s diminutive and industrious assistants, than to refer to the characters themselves.

“Richard bought some fake-tanning lotion yesterday. He looks like an Oompa-Loompa!”