SF in the OED, Sept. 2016

This quarter’s OED update has a bit of a theme to it. Of the seven words or senses added, three of them are related to Roald Dahl. They’re from different sections of the alphabet, so I have to assume this is intentional, but I don’t recall seeing this kind of pattern before. (Although, since I’m focused on SF, I could easily be overlooking other, similar clusters in areas in which I lack expertise.)

The Dahl-centric words are: Dahlesque, Oompa-Loompa, and golden ticket.

Dahlesque is defined simply as “Resembling or characteristic of the works of Roald Dahl,” which is pretty much how you have to define “authors-name+esque”; fortunately, they have a great note, which reads: “Dahl’s writing, particularly his children’s fiction, is typically characterized by eccentric plots, villainous or loathsome adult characters, and gruesome or black humour,” which sums up both Dahl and why you might compare someone (or something) to him very nicely, indeed. This also raises the count of eponyms from fantastika writers in the OED to eight.

Oompa Loompa seems to have joined munchkin as a term with a fantasy etymon that can be applied to short people. Unlike munchkin, however, it is also used as an adjective describing orange-colored people, as in this 1994 citation: “Self-tanners, which in the past tended to make you look like an Oompa-Loompa, now provide a much more even, natural-looking color.” (The orange sense is not directly from Dahl — as the OED notes, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, they were originally black-skinned [white in later editions]; it was the 1971 film that made them orange.)

And finally, golden ticket, “a (gold or golden-coloured) ticket, esp. one that grants the holder a valuable or exclusive prize, experience, opportunity, etc.; also fig.” While not original to Dahl — the earliest citation is from 1859 — I would bet that modern usage is influenced by the Golden Ticket which got Charlie into the famed Chocolate Factory (in both novel and film).

Moving on from Dahliana, they have added two terms for matter transmitters:

Transmat hails from 1959 (100 years after the first golden ticket!) in Larry M. Harris’s (aka Laurence M. Janifer) story “Obey that Impulse!” Curiously, the last two citations (1983 and 2008) are both from Doctor Who novels — one from the novelization of “The Five Doctors” and one original novel, “Shining Darkness.” I would prefer to see recent citations from non-Who sources mixed in, unless “Doctor Who” really is the only reason the term is still used.

The other is transporter, which is usually associated with “Star Trek,” but the OED has a first citation of 1957, from Gordon R. Dickson’s story “Cloak and Stagger.” Of the four citations, the next two are from “Star Trek” — the pilot “The Cage” and Vonda N. MacIntyre’s novel “The Entropy Effect” — and a cite from a mainstream novel that directly references “Star Trek.” Again, it would be nice to see non–Trek-allusive citations, unless Trek is the only reference for the term. (In this case, I can state with certainty that it is not, although it is surely the vector for any mainstream use, and likely for most post-1960s SF, as well.) But the OED seems less concerned with that sort of thing than I am.

This brings the number of synonyms of matter transmitter in the OED to four: matter transmitter, matter transporter, transmat, and transporter. Which beats BNW by one, although we overlap only on “matter transmitter.” The two I have that the OED lacks are teleport and teleporter. This, despite the fact that their definition for transmat ends with “a matter transmitter, a teleporter.” In dictionary parlance, I believe this is known as “word not in,” which is usually a no-no, although I imagine keeping up with it is pretty hard in a continuously-updated work like the OED3. (I’m going to assume that it means that “teleport” will be added in a future update.)

Moving from “Doctor Who” and “Star Trek” to another media-SF behemoth, we have two final SFnal additions: Yoda and Yoda-like.

Yoda, n., is glossed as “A person who embodies the characteristics of Yoda, esp. in being wise; an elder, sage, or guru.” It dates from 1984 (for reference, “The Empire Strikes Back” was released in 1981). Yoda-like is defined, as you might expect, as “Resembling or reminiscent of Yoda.” In addition to the wise and/or elder aspects, other characteristics referenced in the citation are his diminutive stature and characteristic syntax.

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