Lots of people (and by “lots” I mean roughly 99% of everyone I’ve ever spoken to) believe that the dictionary is a Who’s Who of words. That it’s like Ivy League college admissions. That only the really good words, the ones that have eaten all their spinach and who play the oboe and who get high scores on the SAT, make it into the dictionary. That the words that make it into the dictionary are somehow “realler” than the words that don’t.
Well, that’s not exactly true. It does take a bit of work to get a word into the dictionary, but inclusion in the dictionary is not an honor. The dictionary words are not more real than the words not in the dictionary. What they are is more USEFUL.
Think of the dictionary as less of a Social Register for words and more like a word general store. I am the manager of the word general store. Do I stock only words in my size? Only in the flavors I like? Only the words I wish people would use? No — I provide a wide selection of words for the use of all my customers. And because my customers are such a wide group (basically, all adult readers and writers) I have to make sure to include the words that will serve their needs.
As I said in the Wordorigins.org thread where I found the link, she has a real gift for explaining lexicography in ways that the ordinary person can understand. And she ends with some good advice:
So, if you want to get a word into the dictionary…, show me that people are using it. Lots of people, in lots of different places (not just online, not just in one narrow field of reference). Send me examples in context. Show me that it’s important, that people need to know it to live their lives…
Of course, a commenter has already asked “Can the creator of a word grease some palms to get it in?” (Slip me a few bucks, pal, and I’ll see what I can do.)