Word Nerds Rejoice as Merriam-Webster Adds 370 New Words

For many word nerds, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is America's dictionary. It settled arguments during Scrabble games. It was used to hold the door open on windy days. It taught us how to spell naughty words. If you don't love Merriam-Webster, then you hate America.

Some people consider the Merriam-Webster the less sophisticated cousin to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) because it's smaller and has fewer entries.

They may have a point. A hard copy of Merriam-Webster is a single volume, has 2,816 pages, and weighs 10 pounds. A hard copy of the OED clocks in at 20 volumes, 21,728 pages, and 177 pounds.

That's because the British cheat and spell many words with an extra 'u,' like colour and honour. It's like how Chipotle jams a bunch of extra rice into your burrito to make it bigger.

Merriam-Webster added 370 new words to their lexicon this month, which is early Christmas for us word nerds.

These new words represent the way language is changing and evolving, and Merriam-Webster added them to reflect certain words that have sprung up and had some staying power within our society.

That's because Merriam-Webster is a descriptive dictionary. That means it describes the way language is used today. A prescriptive dictionary defines the way language should be used. However, there aren't any prescriptive dictionaries unless you count your high school English teacher, Mrs. Grumblesneer.

But that didn't stop one California man from making death threats against the publisher and editors of the dictionary because he didn't like their definitions for "girl," "woman," and "female." He pleaded guilty and faces five years in prison.

In the spirit of rebelling against violent fascism, let's see what Merriam-Webster has done.

One of the new words is "greenwash," which is when a company tries to make its products seem more environmentally friendly, even though we know they're not. For example, "Coca-Cola greenwashed their Sprite bottles by making them clear, but they're still one of the world's biggest plastics polluters."

"Dumbphone" is the opposite of a smartphone because it refers to the old-timey flip phones that the pioneers carried in the early 2000s. It also refers to Android phones because I hate them. A regular dumbphone is a phone that doesn't have email or an Internet browser. Or is missing the little Apple logo on the back. They do have nice cameras, though; I can't argue with that.

"Virtue signaling" means displaying one's awareness of social and racial issues instead of taking action. "Not being angry that the new Little Mermaid is Black is just more liberal virtue signaling."

Look, it's not virtue signaling if the other person is a nicer human than you. If you think being a decent person is virtue signaling, don't worry. No one will ever believe that about you.

Merriam-Webster also wanted to show they were down with the young people and included several slang terms in its pages. I felt younger just for learning these words.

For starters, they added "sus," which means suspicious or suspect. It started as a term in the mobile game, Among Us, and became all the rage for people whose jaws are apparently so overworked that adding "-pect" or "-picious was just too much effort.

I'm told the correct phrase is, "They couldn't even," which is another phrase too taxing to complete.

Another entry is "lewk," which is what a Scottish person shouts when something amazing is about to happen.

Wait, that's not right. It refers to a fashion look — oh, I get it! — that is unique to the wearer and memorable to others. Especially if they live in Scotland.

One word that took a long time to land in Merriam-Webster is "adorkable," which refers to a person who is socially awkward but in an endearing way. As in, "How does Erik Deckers manage to be so manly and adorkable at the same time?"

My kids would say that last paragraph is "cringe," meaning it's so embarrassing as to cause them to cringe. And I would remind them that I have plenty of cringe stories about their childhoods. So button it.

"Janky" finally made the list, which was surprising because people in Indiana have been using the word since we became a state. It means "of very poor quality. Not functioning properly or adequately." As in, "Boy, people from Ohio sure are janky."

Hey, don't blame us. Buckeyes have always been a little "sus."

See? Just a few minutes with the new words, and I'm already an expert. I guess I'm "leveling up," which means to improve oneself.

Thank you, Merriam-Webster, for keeping the American English language alive and thriving. One day soon, I believe you'll "pwn" the OED and "yeet" those 20 volumes right out of here.

I told you I was adorkable.

Photo credit: OrnaW (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.