Hoping to step away from controversy this week (iPhones and protesting during the national anthem will really push some buttons), I would like to return to one of my favorite subjects – words.
Like most everyone, the folks at Merriam-Webster, arguably the most well-known dictionary creators, are online now, so it’s relatively easy to keep up with the new words they add periodically.
That’s right. As our language evolves, so apparently do our dictionaries.
According to the Merriam Webster website, more than 250 new words were added in September.
So how do terms become words deemed worthy of the dictionary? I’m glad you asked.
According to the website post announcing the entry of the new words, they “have shown themselves to be fully established members of the language, some after hanging about on the fringes for decades, and others after proving themselves too useful to ignore in relatively short order.”
The post states that all of the new words “have demonstrated significant use in a variety of sources, making them words our readers expect to find in the dictionary.”
I don’t know that I completely agree with that. Even I, geeky as I may be about words and language, don’t sit around thinking about words that should and should not be in the dictionary.
But when I come across a post about the new words, I simply can’t resist. And since I have this forum, I feel compelled to share a sampling.
“Froyo,” which is nothing more than a combination of the first two letters of the words “frozen” and “yogurt,” is one of the most recent additions. If I were a dictionary editor, I would object to this one. I am fine to use it in a colloquial sense, but in my opinion it’s really not a word, even if Merriam-Webster says it is.
Continuing with the food theme, there is “sriracha,” a hot sauce you might have seen sitting next to other condiments in a restaurant, which is defined as a “pungent sauce that is made from hot peppers pureed with usually garlic, sugar, salt, and vinegar and that is typically served as a condiment.”
I would have thought that one might have already made it, but apparently not. Since it is becoming more and more common as a condiment or ingredient, I guess it was only a matter of time.
From the business world, there is “onboarding,” defined as “the act or process of orienting or training a new employee.” I have heard this one for years, and I kind of think of it in the buzz word category – words people at work enjoy hearing themselves say.
And “pregame” doesn’t only describe activities before a game anymore. I’ve heard it used for any type of activity that occurs prior to a main event, such as, “Let’s have a pregame conversation” before something like a wedding or other type of celebration. Its use has now expanded.
Merriam-Webster has made it an intransitive verb that means “to begin drinking alcohol before an event or activity (such as a party or a night out)” and uses as an example, “Her friends, all in their 20s and pregaming for a Saturday night out in the bars, nodded enthusiastically.”
That’s another one I question. I am always skeptical of converting nouns into verbs.
Phrases also make it into the dictionary, with “concealed carry” and “open carry” being recent additions, terms associated with carrying firearms in public.
From the world of politics, there’s “alt-right,” an extreme form of conservatism, and “dog whistle,” an expression with secondary meaning meant for only a select group of understanding like minds.
My favorite new entry is “hive mind.” I had never even heard of its traditional usage, which is the “coordinated ways that colonies of social insects like bees and ants behave.”
Apparently now it is common to hear it used to describe “collective thoughts, ideas, and opinions of a group of people seeming to function as a single mind.”
(Maybe those of a hive mind hear the same dog whistle).
I’ll definitely be listening for all of these and more of the recent new words.
I do have more of a life than this, however. To demonstrate that, I’ll go out for some froyo and perhaps splash a bit of sriracha on it.
But I know my limits. I’m way too old for any pregaming.
Bob McKinney is a longtime Brentwood resident, happy husband and proud father, father-in-law and grandfather. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.