John Lucas Avatar Posted on 7/11/2008 by John Lucas
Culture
Features

Merriam-Webster introduces its latest new entries into their popular series of English dictionaries.

Written by John Lucas (editor-at-large)

W00T! W00T!

Language evolves constantly. Words are invented, interpreted, and redefined on a daily basis. The concepts of the universe are described by these strange particles of sound and curious articles of scribbles. Labeling those syllables and scripts is a constant ongoing process and each language’s official book of words is always behind in capturing these creative implementations. To cover for their inadequacy, the dictionaries call words they haven’t classified and documented “slang” as if the people crudely and carelessly sling around expressions like pig slop. “It’s not language unless WE say it is,” goes the mentality of the word-keepers. Haughty, cocky, and snobbish all the same but language stops for no man, woman, or dictionary. The tongue wags on.

Merriam-Webster Inc. seeks to futilely keep up with the changing times adding over 100 new expressions into their Collegiate Dictionary’s new edition. The wordbook which originated in the 1800’s from Noah Webster, the guy who turned English into “American”, adds these new terminologies as a result of observing their usage over the years.

Peter Sokolowski, an editor-at-large for the Springfield, Massachusetts located dictionary publisher, explains:

“As soon as we see the word used without explanation or translation or gloss, we consider it a naturalized citizen of the English language. If somebody is using it to convey a specific idea and that idea is successfully conveyed in that word, it's ready to go in the dictionary”

I don’t know. Do YOU understand what I’m talking about if I use the word “edamame”? What about “pescatarian”? Or “prosecco”? What does “soju” mean? “Mondegreen”? I have heard of “dirty bomb” being used before but what about “Norovirus”? Is an “infinity pool” an endless office betting contest or an endless billiards tournament? Have you heard of the word “Webinar” and what does that mean? How about “netroots”? I’ve only heard of that one a few days ago reading a political forum. Well everybody probably has heard of “Texas Hold ‘Em” so it’s not a total washout.

Gathered from the worlds of cooking, news events, technology, and new products, these approved phrasings have bridged the gap from the jargon galaxy (sorta). And their approval has taken some words decades to accomplished like in the case of “mondegreen” which means “words mistaken for other words” as in James Brown’s or Bob Dylan’s spoken lyrics (Ha!). Minted and coined since 1954, ‘mondegreen’ came from an old Scottish ballad with one particular line that goes “laid him on the green”. With the trademark accent involved this began to be heard as “Lady Mondegreen” and somebody had a new word to play with.

Old rock ‘n’ roll lyrics like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “There’s a bad moon on the rise” (from 1969’s Bad Moon Rising) get confused for “There’s a bathroom on the right”. Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze from 1967 and its line “‘Scuse me, while I kiss the sky” gets misheard as “‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy” to often hilarious effect. The Merriam-Webster squad got such a kick out of this ‘mondegreen’ phenomenon that they are planning on asking people to submit their favorite misinterpreted lyrics on the company’s website.

‘Mondegreen’ like other long-watched words join the word bible based on how widely they are used in publications from newspapers all the way to technical manuals. Word-head Sokolowski says, “They can float for decades. What that means for the most part is that they've been used in more spoken forms than they were found written until recently.” Merriam-Webster’s president and publisher, John Morse, remarks that the cleverness of words created from the world of the internet makes them easy to grasp giving them staying power. Mr. Morse stands in teary-eyed awe, “There's a kind of collective genius on the part of the people developing this technology, using vocabulary that is immediately accessible to all of us. It's sometimes absolutely poetic.” Allen Metcalf, executive secretary of the American Dialect Society and English professor at MacMurray College in Illinois, thinks that the new entries that came from the growing popularity of cooking shows and international cuisine will be among the most lasting and useful of the latest additions. Prof. Metcalf admits his true feelings on past and present work in the dictionary’s word additions, “I'm kind of used to laughing at the choices these editors publicize, but this time I'm impressed.”

But of course you all want more, so let me impress you with a sampling of the new edition of additions for Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (there’s a very interesting addition under the letter ‘F’):

•Air quotes (1989): gesture made by raising and flexing the index and middle fingers of both hands, used to call attention to a spoken word or expression.

•Dark energy (1998): hypothetical form of energy that produces a force that opposes gravity and is thought to cause the accelerating expansion of the universe.

•Dirty bomb (1956): bomb designed to release radioactive material.

•Dwarf planet (1993): celestial body that orbits the sun and has a spherical shape, but is too small to disturb other objects from its orbit.

•Edamame (1951): immature green soybeans, usually in the pod.

•Fanboy (1919): boy who is an enthusiastic devotee, such as of comics or movies.

•Infinity pool (1992): outdoor swimming pool with an edge over which water flows into a trough, but seems to flow into the horizon.

•Jukebox musical (1993): musical that features popular songs from the past.

•Kiteboarding (1996): the sport of riding on a small surfboard propelled across water by a large kite, to which the rider is harnessed.

•Malware (1990): software designed to interfere with a computer's normal functioning.

•Mental health day (1971): day that an employee takes off from work to relieve stress or renew vitality.

•Mondegreen (1954): word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung. From the mishearing in a Scottish ballad of "laid him on the green" as "Lady Mondegreen."

•Netroots (2003): grassroots political activists who communicate via the Internet, especially by blogs.

•Norovirus (2002): any of a genus of small round single-stranded RNA viruses; specifically, Norwalk virus.

•Pescatarian (1993): vegetarian whose diet includes fish.

•Phytonutrient (1994): bioactive, plant-derived compound (as resveratrol) associated with positive health effects.

•Pretexting (1992): presenting oneself as someone else to obtain private information.

•Prosecco (1881): a dry Italian sparkling wine.

•Racino (1995): racetrack at which slot machines are available for gamblers.

•Soju (1978): a Korean vodka distilled from rice.

•Subprime (1995) 1: having or being an interest rate that is higher than a prime rate and is extended especially to low-income borrowers; 2: extending or obtaining a subprime loan.

•Supercross (1983): motorcycle race held in a stadium on a dirt track having hairpin turns and high jumps.

•Texas Hold 'em (1995): Poker in which each player is dealt two cards face down and all players share five cards dealt face-up.

•Webinar (1998): live, online educational presentation during which participating viewers can submit questions and comments.

•Wing nut (circa 1900): Slang: one who advocates extreme measures or changes; radical.


Word is bond to the Associated Press through SFGate.com.








Pure silliness, wrapped around a history lesson that’s largely apolitical; stars persons and places more recognizable than the first book.
April 7, 2014Read More!
Stories written between 2003 and 2010 that are bagatelles; not bad, but not memorable; not the Waldrop collection to start with, but buy it anyway.
April 3, 2014Read More!
An exemplary vision spanning 192 pages, with plenty of juicy information about Respawn’s wondrous new world to sate even the most jaded of gamers.
March 21, 2014Read More!
Even if its source material wasn't to your liking, there’s plenty to enjoy about this accompanying tome, especially if you can appreciate great art when you see it.
March 21, 2014Read More!
We chat with Cosplay Deviants' Troy Doerner about his new book Undressing the Art of Playing Dress Up.
March 19, 2014Read More!
See More From Culture...
Katsuhiro Otomo and three other directors serve up a wild anthology of anime shorts in the wonderful and bizarre collection that is Short Peace.
April 18, 2014Read More!
Lacks the nostalgic pulp magazine atmosphere that made its predecessor so much fun, but as a Marvel film it gets the job done.
April 4, 2014Read More!
More audacious than volume one, mostly because of von Trier’s willingness to delve into the darker, often unexplored recesses of the mind.
April 4, 2014Read More!
In spite of Berry's incredible performance(s), the film cannot escape its controversial subject matter or its melodramatic plot.
April 4, 2014Read More!
Disney returns its Peter Pan spin off series to the high seas in The Pirate Fairy.
April 4, 2014Read More!
See More From Movies...
This next-gen COD style mech adventure is one best experienced with equipment that can make it shine, even if the underlying product is still kind of dull.
April 14, 2014Read More!
A great example of a 'clone' of popular genre games done right, especially those unavailable on platforms they make the most sense on.
April 14, 2014Read More!
A streamlined version of 999 that doffs the need for convoluted gameplay, presenting the same events and chilling twists that make the game accessible to anyone. In short, it's awesome.
April 14, 2014Read More!
While commendable to see a darker take on familiar archetypes, fans may want to stick with a different strategy-RPG that doesn't try so hard to be edgy.
April 14, 2014Read More!
A new act, class, loot system and more await fans in the first expansion to Blizzard’s Diablo 3.
April 8, 2014Read More!
See More From Games...