The Spectacle Blog

Urbane Dictionary: Merriam-Webster’s Way With Words

By on 5.23.14 | 10:44AM

Merriam-Webster has just announced the words—150 of them—that will be added to the newest edition of their abridged Collegiate Dictionary. Editor Peter Sokolowski says that “many of these new words show the impact of online connectivity to our lives and livelihoods.” I guess this is all part of the way we live now: “hashtag,” “selfie,” and “tweep” are now officially endorsed. Merriam-Webster is always stunt-casting trendy words and phrases, probably in a desperate search for relevance. “Pulchritude” isn’t sexy enough to keep those Collegiates flying off the shelf, after all.

Not all of the newbies are tech-related, though, and some of the new culinary nouns—pepita (“the edible seed of a pumpkin or squash often dried or toasted”)—strike me as useful. Others are bizarre (“turducken”: “a boneless chicken stuffed into a boneless duck stuffed into a boneless turkey”) or disgusting (“poutine”: “a dish of French Fries covered with brown gravy and cheese curds”).

According to Merriam-Webster’s website, candidates for dictionary inclusion go through a rigorous process that determines a word’s frequency of use in a wide number of publications, whether the new word has a largely agreed-upon definition, and whether the word is too niche.

Rather than fret over these additions, why don’t I suggest some words for removal from the dictionary? Merriam-Webster has done it before in their abridged edition, as this video explains (bye-bye “sternforemost” and “snollygoster”!). With this in mind, let’s take a look at the rookie roster from 2012. Has anyone other than Oprah ever had an “aha moment”? “Earworm” is too lowbrow for serious music critics and too strange for the rest of us, who just say “song that got stuck in my head.” “Bucket list” lent itself to a truly awful film a few years ago, but I doubt that it would be missed outside online dating circles.

Let’s hope I can say the same thing two years from now about “twerk.”

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