Facebook to build Urban Dictionary-like social glossary for slang

Facebook

At 12 years old, Facebook is no longer the sprightly new social media site it once was, but that hasn’t stopped it from trying to keep up with the times. The elder statesman of networking has been granted a patent for a system which automatically picks up slang words even before they hit mainstream usage.

This technology would basically scour Facebook posts and messages in pursuit of neologisms, a fancy word for slang terms. As per the patent, these could be anything from portmanteaus, acronyms, abbreviations or nicknames. For instance, phrases like staycation, digital detox, hactivism and oversharer would find a spot in the site’s glossary.

Facebook wants to catch such slang just as they’re starting to emerge. The company’s tool is supposed to spot new terms, assess whether they’re actually fresh, and only then adds the phrase to its list. If the word falls out of popularity, the system removes it from the lexicon. The last rule is essential given the rapid rise and fall of social media jargon these days.

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In Facebook’s own words, the technology could pick up something like ‘Rickrolled’, a term used to describe a scenario where a user sends a video of a Rick Astely song to a friend as a prank. It would get added to the site’s list, allowing the company to keep track of its spread and catalogue how it develops in social media.

The patent doesn’t exactly spell out why Facebook is compiling slang. One theory put out by Business Insider is that the website is looking to improve its predictive search engine. There’s also the possibility that the brand is just looking to ape Urban Dictionary with its own guide to confusing terms for people out of touch with trends.

The document certainly hints at this, with talk of an interface which allows people to add, edit and remove words from the glossary. Keep in mind that this is still a patent and may not even be used by Facebook in the future.