Dictionaries: Journal of the Dictionary Society of North America
Number 25, 2004
pp. 122-136 | 10.1353/dic.2004.0010
Making FUDGE: Testing Metcalf's Predictive Method for New-Word Success Julie Anne Zorn Neologisms emerge every day, but not all neologisms find their way into the mainstream vocabulary. In his book, Predicting New Words: The Secrets of Their Success, Allan Metcalf proposes a five-factor scale entitled the FUDGE scale, to predict whether or not a new word will be successful. The five factors are Frequency of use, Unobtrusiveness, Diversity of users and situations, Generation of other forms and meanings, and Endurance of the concept (2002, 152) . The focus of this study is to test the validity of Metcalf's metric. A number of publications have attempted to record neologisms as they appear. The journal American Speech (AS) has devoted a semiregular column entitled "Among the New Words" (ATNW) since 1941, and it is the longest running documentary of new words (Algeo 1991, 1) . According toJohn Algeo, one of the editors ofATNW and editor of the book Fifty Years Among the New Words: A Dictionary of Neologisms, 1941-1991, the only criterion that designates a word as being "new" is that the specific form or use of the word is not currently found in general dictionaries (Algeo 1991, 2). For this study, I used four sources as determiners of success: Google.com, an Internet search engine, and the electronic versions of three dictionaries — the American Heritage Dictionary ofthe English Language (2000), and the online versions of both Merriam Webster's Third New InternationalDictionary and the OxfordEnglishDictionary. I also used LexisNexis, an online database, not to determine success, but to study frequency. Although Metcalf states that entrance into a dictionary Dictionaries:Journal ofthe Dictionary Society ofNorth America 25 (2004) Making FUDGE 123 does not ultimately mean a word is successful (2002, 165), it is a concrete method of testing the validity of his scale. Methodology During the years 1985-1989, there were 388 neologisms recorded in "Among the New Words." Selecting every tenth word, with a few exceptions, I reduced the number of neologisms. The 1985 Spring and Winter installments recorded less than ten words, so I used the last entry in each volume. Also, in the 1987 Fall and 1988 Spring installments , the tenth words were derivatives of prominently existing words (clock and hall, respectively), which would have hindered the process of rating them on the FUDGE scale. In these cases, the words immediately preceding the anomalous entries were used. This selection method rendered 36 neologisms, although four were later removed due to problems that arose using LexisNexis.1 Table 1 lists the selected neologisms chronologically by AS volume . The ATNW feature did not appear in 1986, and some years yielded longer features and, therefore, more neologisms. Table 1 List of every tenth neologism by issue of American Speech (AS) Neologism AS issue Neologism AS issue yuppie ? oilpatch ? Tinseltown ? clapometer ? personal organizer ? yuppy-bashing ? DRAMn fanäable adj goulash communism ? Kenya bean ? Spring 1985 Fall 1985 Winter 1985 Fall 1987 Winter 1987 Winter 1987 Spring 1988 Spring 1988 Spring 1988 Spring 1988 three-hander ? winkie-wiggling ? cocooning ? generationalpolitician ? potatophernalia ? spud suit ? ecomenu ? double zero attrib shopping network ? equitist ? Summer 1998 Summer 1988 Fall 1988 Fall 1988 Fall 1988 Fall 1988 Winter 1988 Spring 1989 Spring 1989 Summer 1989 1TlIe four excluded words are big bang (Fall 1987), breath pack (Fall 1987), little bang (Fall 1987), and a-question (Winter 1988). Once excluded, they were not replaced by other neologisms. 124 Julie Anne Zorn Table 1 (continued) List of every tenth neologism by issue of American Speech (AS) Neologism AS issue Neologism AS issue masculist ? teleconferencing ? off-the-ball ? positively vet ? send-in ? snap tin ? Spring 1988 Summer 1988 Summer 1988 Summer 1988 Summer 1988 Summer 1988 jetway ? suppie ? yuppism ? computer virus ? geneticfingerprinting ? pack rape ? Summer 1989 Summer 1989 Summer 1989 Fall 1989 Winter 1989 Winter 1989 After selecting the 32 neologisms for this study, I rated them on the FUDGE factors. Each factor has three levels, Level 0, 1 or 2 (Metcalf 2002, 152). The sum of level numbers for all five factors results in a score for a neologism anywhere from zero to ten on the scale, ten being the highest and thus most predictive of success (2002...