One of my my side interests outside of physics is linguistics. One interesting topic that fits into this interest is the creation and spread of new words. Most of these new words are created and spread in an organic way that is difficult to trace. However, sometimes people try to create and spread new words for a variety of reasons.
One such movement was brought to my knowledge recently: oxt weekend. “Oxt” is supposed to be an easy way to say “not this [weekend], but the [weekend] after.” There are some good things about this idea: it solves an ambiguity in our language, it’s pretty easy to remember, and they’ve got a good-looking website, and are taking advantage of social networking sites.
That said, I think there are some problems with the “oxt” movement. While they are right in saying that new words are created and come into general acceptance all the time, they (along with many people) misunderstand the point at which a word has gained a new meaning. They state that a new word can make it into the dictionary and thereby become an “official” word. This reflects the idea that there is some authority that makes the dictionaries and dictates the meanings of words. In the case of English, this not true. The meanings of words are decided by common usage, and the dictionary is meant to reflect this democratically created meaning.
With that minor quibble out of the way, my bigger problem is with the word itself.
Clearly, it’s chosen like the word “next” in form, because of its similar function. However, its intended pronunciation is going to be problematic. Although ‘x’ is written with one letter, it is actually a combination of two consonant sounds, ‘k’ and ‘s.’ So in the combination ‘xt,’ there are three distinct consonant sounds in a row, and, unless the speaker is being very formal, one of these sounds will be dropped. Try it for yourself: say the phrase “next weekend.” If you’re saying it casually, as in normal speech, you’ll probably notice that the ‘t’ sound is dropped. In this case, it’s not a big problem. But in the case of “oxt,” dropping the ‘t’ sound gives us the word “ox.” This is going to cause confusion, especially if you’re trying to spread a new word that is impossible to tell from an already common word.
So, although I admire the attempt, I think I’m going to have to stick with saying “the weeknd after next” if I’m afraid I’ll be misunderstood.