WOTD Defense: Unpack and Netiquette

So, today the Word of the Day on the Morning Stream was unpack in the sense of "to analyze (a news announcement, event, speech, etc.)".  Scott Johnson specifically stated that unpack should only be used for luggage.  That seems to me to be an unnecessary limiting to me.  Words take on figurative meanings all the time, it's part of how language extends itself.  What's more, it has a less formal feel than the synonym analyze (which is derived from Greek, whereas unpack uses a native Germanic root).  I suppose that another synonym break down might have worked just as well, but I don't see how using unpack in this sense causes any confusion.

I also want to talk a little about yesterday's discussion on netiquette, which, since I didn't watch live, and so didn't write a defense for.  Netiquette itself is one of those wonderful neologisms of the Internet age, a portmanteau of net + etiquette.  A lot of people hate these words simply because 1) they are new (or perceived as new) and 2) they represent the Internet culture that is "rotting our children's minds".

What I found more interesting was the discussion during that segment on the role of dictionaries.  Many people seem to have some sort of odd mysticism about dictionaries, as if inclusion in a dictionary somehow makes a word "real".  This also leads some people to object to "unworthy" words being included.  It might make sense for a usage dictionary or a technical dictionary to be selective in that way, but dictionaries are ultimately about documentation.  The Oxford English Dictionary in particular draws particular negative attention for inclusion of certain word, despite the fact that the mission of the OED is quite the opposite of a language authority:  It is a historical record of the English language.  Thus, inclusion OED means nothing other than the fact that a word is common enough in their corpus to be included.  (They have some criteria, but it's mainly that.)  Criticizing the Oxford English Dictionary for recording a word is a bit like criticizing Scott for making podcasts, it's exactly what they set out to do.