Much has been said about the Real Academia Española of late. Much has also been said about its academics, sitting in ornate chairs with their corresponding letter engraved in wood (more like thrones than chairs), engaging in debate around a large round table. And regrettably, not all the questions debated have been well received. With the 23rd edition of the most-consulted dictionary among Spanish speakers only a few months from being put on sale, the sneak peeks of the new additions have not generated much besides controversy and a big media storm.
The institution in charge of maintaining the rules of the Spanish language is preparing the addition of almost 1,700 new terms against the backdrop of its 300th anniversary, in October of this year. Words such as murciégalo (re: murciégalo, bat),wasapear (as in to use WhatsApp),toballa (re: toalla, towel) andalmóndiga (re: albóndiga, meatball) are in the sights of the new edition, thus adjusting it, as has been said, to the necessities of current times. However, what is unsettling to readers is the apparent arbitrary nature with which such terms have been included: the reason why to include words today that historically have been left aside or taken to be errors or deformations, adaptations or calques from other languages, and so on and so forth.
For its part, the Real Academia claims that since language is something that mutates and changes, it’s timely to include these new forms in the dictionary. Previously, dictionaries faced important physical limitations, as when dealing with printed materials, the number of words included had to be more strictly regulated. These days, with the use of the internet, the limitations of a printed dictionary no longer present a problem as all the words deemed necessary can be included in the virtual dictionary.
Those who defend this new stance in favor of inclusion state that the RAE is trying to advance in its new editions and finally change the attitude of a conservative institution that it has had over the years. Those who are not so much in favor say that the Academia is being inconsistent by including words today that yesteryear it had ruled to be erroneous.
For their part, the lords of letters are not making any statements on the matter. The closure of the 23rd edition of the Diccionario de la lengua española was carried out last March 14, and as was indicated by the director of the Real Academia, José Manuel Bleuca, “there are questions of much greater importance than the word almóndiga” to focus on. After all, this wouldn’t be the first time that the Real Academia has been called to take the stand.