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For Majorism, It's a Defining Moment, Almost

September 08, 1993|WILLIAM TUOHY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONDON — History has still to judge whether Prime Minister John Major will be considered a success, but Majorism has made the grade: The word is listed in the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary published Tuesday.

The Oxford University Press hailed the 3,700-page, two-volume book as its "publishing event of the decade"--with 500,000 definitions. Majorism , one of the 4,000 new words in the edition, is defined as "the political and economic policies of the British Conservative politician John Major."

Thus the word takes its place along with Thatcherism , defined as "the political and economic policies advocated by Margaret Thatcher."

But political buffs seeking guidance on those policies will remain unenlightened, because the dictionary, perhaps wisely, refrains from detailed explanations.

Known as the New Shorter, the new dictionary is the replacement for the older Shorter OED, first published 60 years ago.

The New Shorter, which cost about $4.5 million to compile, sells for $90 and will be published in the United States in mid-October.

The inclusion of new words such as meltdown ("a sudden rapid drop in the value of a currency, shares, etc."), gonzo ("a crazy or foolish person"), and dweeb ("a person who is boringly conventional, puny or studious") is the result of a sifting of 200,000 examples of new words and meanings.

The Majorism definition--or the lack of a meaningful one--did not please the Independent newspaper.

Major's long struggle to see Parliament ratify the Maastricht Treaty on European union saw him straddling political fences--so the Independent invited readers to come up with a better definition.

First prize: a weekend for two in the Dutch town of Maastricht.

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