Sure, the dictionary’s a resource designed to give an accurate accounting of words in all their many shapes and sizes, their definitions and their spellings. But whatever finality a dictionary’s thick binding implies, it’s destined to beg adjustment just as soon as it has been set, as words take shape, wither from disuse or simply fall in and out of favor.
Case in point: With this week’s addition of more than 1,000 words, Merriam-Webster will likely have to plan on a few more pages for its next print edition.
That means we’ll just have to make space on our shelf for such a big book made bigger by humblebrag — “to make a seemingly modest, self-critical, or casual statement or reference that is meant to draw attention to one’s admirable or impressive qualities or achievements.”
It also means we’ll finally see our long-derided belief in truther — “one who believes that the truth about an important subject or event is being concealed from the public by a powerful conspiracy” — finally vindicated by its addition.
And while they may not add up to a fully fledged conlang — or an “invented language” — a few decidedly Seussian-sounding terms like snollygoster, bokeh and mumblecore have also found happy endings nestled among Merriam-Webster’s new entries.
Though, not to throw shade on poor snollygoster, but the looping oddball of a word for “a shrewd, unprincipled person” isn’t all that new; once a regular in the dictionary, it ghosted from the pages of Merriam-Webster’s abridged Collegiate Dictionary more than a decade ago for its diminished use. It turns out even a word often used to call politicians dishonest isn’t everlasting.
Credit Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly with its surprising revival, Merriam-Webster says. “This time, the lexicographers were wrong,” the dictionary admits in something of a mea culpa.
But then, perhaps such a reversal shouldn’t be that surprising at all.
“This is a significant addition of words to our dictionary, and it reflects both the breadth of English vocabulary and the speed with which that vocabulary changes,” Lisa Schneider, chief digital officer and publisher at Merriam-Webster, says in a news release.
To get a sense of that breadth, lexicographers ranged from the campus (safe space and microaggression) to the halls of power (SCOTUS and FLOTUS), from courts and rinks (airball and five-hole) to the teeming Petri dish of language that is social media (side-eye and face-palm).
Still, given Merriam-Webster’s recent penchant for political trolling, the most useful word for the dictionary may simply be an old stand-by: snark.
Here’s a glimpse of some more of the words, phrases and acronyms just added to the dictionary.
- Fast fashion
- First world problem
- Food insecure
- Geek out
- Net neutrality
- Ride shotgun
- Throw shade
- Town hall
- Train wreck
- Urgent care
- Walk back
- Weak sauce