The word petaloso is used to describe a flower that has many petals.
It has now been recognized by Italy’s national language academy, the 400-year-old Accademia della Crusca, and is described as “beautiful and clear.”
This all begs the question: what defines a language? What determines which words we understand and which are gibberish?
Sara McGonagall, a local linguist who studied the evolution of languages at the University of Calgary, says that languages are recreating themselves every day.
“If language never changed, we would still have our verbs at the end of our sentences. And, well, we wouldn’t have English at all.”
Languages are not designed, said McGonagall, but are instead are comprised of the words we use every day.
“The word ‘blog’ is commonplace now, but ‘bonifate’ is lost to time,” she said.
Just last year, when the Oxford University Press, responsible for publishing the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, announced that they were adding 1,000 new slang words, including “jeggings” and “awesomesauce,” to their English dictionaries.
There is resistance, however, to the evolution of language, particularly to the inclusion of slang words.
Many thought that officially recognizing words like jeggings and awesomesauce represented a “dumbing down” of our language. Many more argued that they are not words at all.
Jessica Rae, a local linguist who is currently teaching English abroad, said there is little use in complaining about which words get added to the dictionary.
“Honestly, for an average person, a dictionary is probably just useful for checking the spelling or meaning of an unfamiliar word.”
Whether or not a word is actually in the dictionary doesn’t dictate whether or not people will use it.”
Not adding these words to the dictionary would hinder its relevance and make it a less accurate reflection of our language, according to Rae.
“Adding slang to the dictionary could possibly encourage the words to be included more commonly in official publications, but that’s hardly a considerable risk. The words are added because the language is changing, though. There’s no going back.”
Rae went on to say that all of our words are essentially made up anyways.
So, as the word petalous falls out of usage in English, a new word blossoms in Italy.
And it all started with eight-year-old Matteo.