Fictional Materials for OED

Dave Wilton dave at WILTON.NET
Sun Jan 3 02:44:12 UTC 2010

I'm not sure that fictional names merit inclusion in a dictionary unless
they obtain wider use than in reference to the fictional works in which they
originally appear. Otherwise the dictionary would be inundated with such
entries. Tolkien alone could probably supply a few hundred, "mithril,"
"silmarillion," "Rohirrim" to name a few off the top of my head. (I include
"Rohirrim" because why stop at fictional materials? Why not fictional
creatures, races, places, etc.?) (I just looked it up, and "mithril" has an
OED entry as of 2002. All but one of the citations is either by Tolkien or a
reference to LOTR. I'm not sure about the last.) Capturing pop culture terms
like this is a really good function for Wikipedia; I'm not sure other
reference works should try to compete.

"Kryptonite" probably deserves a dictionary entry because it has
metaphorical uses beyond the Superman genre, and "unobtainium" has been in
widespread use as a jocular name for a supposed element for decades. I don't
think the others qualify.

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
Shapiro, Fred
Sent: Saturday, January 02, 2010 3:24 PM
Subject: Fictional Materials for OED

I have previously suggested that OED should have entries for "kryptonite"
(Superman), the spice "melange" (Dune) and "ice-nine" (Cat's Cradle).  No
one seemed particularly to agree with me, as I remember.

I am inspired to return to this topic by noticing that Wikipedia has an
article, "List of Fictional Elements, Materials, Isotopes and Atomic
Particles."  This list supplies me with some additional candidates:

adamantium (Wolverine)
carbonite (The Empire Strikes Back)
dilithium (Star Trek)

After its use in the film Avatar, "unobtanium" may also merit OED inclusion.

Fred Shapiro

The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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