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It is 25 years since the emoticon (that's the posh word) was born.

Scroll down for more The eye falls on a word you've never seen before or one whose meaning you have always wanted to check, and you close the dictionary just a little bit richer for the experience.

But my lifetime love affair with the OED is at risk. " You know the sort of thing; those of us who have survived for years without a mobile phone have to put up with it all the time.

The sixth edition has just been published and - I feel a small shudder as I write these words - it has fallen victim to fashion. Indeed, you may well have functioned perfectly well until now spelling leapfrog without a hyphen. My old friend Amanda Platell, who graces these pages on Saturdays, has an answerphone message that says the caller may leave a message but she'd Of course it should.

It has removed the hyphen from no fewer than 16,000 words. The spell-check (sorry: spellcheck) on my computer is happy with both. There are fewer letters in that hideous word and think how much time I could have saved typing it.) The texters also have economy on their side.

So in future we are required to spell pigeon-hole, for instance, as pigeonhole and leap-frog as leapfrog. But that's not why I feel betrayed by my precious OED. It has happened because we are changing the way we communicate with each other, which means, says the OED editor Angus Stevenson, that we no longer have time to reach for the hyphen key. No time to make one tiny key-stroke (sorry: key stroke). Are our lives really so pressured, every minute occupied in so many vital tasks, every second accounted for, that we cannot afford the millisecond (no hyphen) it takes to tap that key? No, there's another reason - and it's far more sinister and deeply troubling. It costs almost nothing to send a text message compared with a voice message. I must also concede that some voice messages can be profoundly irritating.

It is the relentless onward march of the texters, the SMS (Short Message Service) vandals who are doing to our language what Genghis Khan did to his neighbours eight hundred years ago. The texters have many more arrows in their quiver than we who defend the old way. My own outgoing message asks callers to be very brief - ideally just name and number - but that doesn't stop some callers burbling on for ten minutes and always, always ending by saying: "Ooh - sorry I went on so long!

They are destroying it: pillaging our punctuation; savaging our sentences; raping our vocabulary. " But can that be any more irritating than those absurd little smiley faces with which texters litter their messages?

A good dictionary is a fine thing - I yield to no man in my love for one.

If I stretch out my right arm as I type, I can pluck from my shelves the two volumes of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

They are as close to my heart as they are to my desk because they are so much more than a useful tool.

Leafing through a good dictionary in search of a single word is a small voyage of discovery - infinitely more satisfying than looking something up on the internet.