- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

“Woke,” a slang term popularized by social-justice activists on the left, is making its way into the next update of Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the BBC reported Tuesday.

The OED is adding a second sense of the adjective. The new entry, now available online, notes that originally the term meant “well-informed, up-to-date,” but in daily usage now chiefly means “alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice; frequently in stay woke (often used as an exhortation).”

OED’s perhaps best-known American rival, Merriam-Webster, has yet to add a second sense for the term “woke,” while Dictionary.com — primarily based off the Random House Unabridged Dictionary — has an entry rather similar to OED‘s: “actively aware of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights[.]”

“Participial use of woke in some African-American varieties of English has generated an adjectival meaning that has recently become prominent in general American use, prompting the addition of a new entry for woke as an adjective,” the OED explained in a posting to its website announcing a list of nine words or terms being added or updated in the month of June.

Although having a long history in African-American slang to refer to be “informed” or “well aware,” the OED explained in its posting that R&B artist Erykah Badu’s 2008 song “Master Teacher” seems to be the earliest use of the term in recent years to connote a narrower sense of awareness of and opposition to discrimination and/or injustice. This sense of the term “woke” has particularly been adopted by the Black Lives Movement, OED said.

Of course, dating the earliest known use in literature of a particular term is a tricky proposition, and the OED made certain to note it will revise its entry as new evidence would warrant.

“Because of the term’s prominence in today’s popular culture, as well as the role it seems to have played in the 1960s and ‘70s, the OED Appeals Program is currently seeking any contextual evidence (i.e. not from a glossary or definition) of woke meaning ‘well informed’ or ‘alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice’ that dates from earlier than 2008,” wrote Katherine Connor Martin, OED’s Head of U.S. Dictionaries.


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