As I write this post, 150 new words are making their debut on Dictionary.com. This seems like a shockingly high number, but it’s actually a pretty discriminating list compared to the 1,000 going into the Oxford English Dictionary and the whopping 1,700 Merriam-Webster said “kk” to. (Which you’d know means “okay” if you got an advanced preview of their word list … or are a 17-year-old girl who texts a lot. That’s probably redundant.)
As you might expect, a lot of new entries come from the tech world, where it’s hard for anyone to keep up, especially if you’re as tired and creaky as The English Language. Some words make sense to include — e.g. clickbait, meme, net neutrality. Others I would have challenged if I were on the Board of New Words. Additions such as Redditor (someone who uses the forums on Reddit) and YouTuber (a couch potato for the new millennium) are so tied to a specific company that who knows if they’ll be relevant two years from now, let alone 100?
Other words are just plain silly, or at least seem beneath these reputable holders of our language. For example: awesomesauce and manspreading. I could figure out the first term (a modifier of your basic “awesome”), but manspreading? Apparently this is “the practice whereby a man, especially one travelling on public transport, adopts a sitting position with his legs wide apart, in such a way as to encroach on an adjacent seat or seats.” Luckily, UrbanDictionary let me off the hook. It’s really a term only Third Wave Feminists are using. What are they? I don’t know either, but I’m guessing it’s a millennial thing (a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000).
Then there are words so familiar I can’t believe they don’t already have an official entry. Words like photobomb: to move into a photo as it’s being taken (because you’re a total jerk and think it’s funny even though it’s not because do you have any idea how long it takes to get a three- and five-year-old looking in the same direction? Of course you don’t, grasshopper.) Grasshopper: a term that refers to one who is a novice or simply ignorant, which gets its origins from the 1970s “Kung Fu” TV series starring David Carradine as the Shaolin priest Kwai Chang Caine.
And finally, emoji (a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication). Not ringing a bell? Text your babysitter to ask if she can come over to watch your children at 7 on Saturday morning. She’ll text back a little yellow “have a nice day” face sticking its tongue out to imply she’s barfing at the idea. That’s an emoji. In response, send her back an emoji of an African American woman dancing in a red dress or a pine tree. Just to mess with her. (Barfing, by the way, was added to the dictionary in 1966.)
How many of these new words do you know?
Here’s a fun quiz to test your knowledge of this new vocabulary. I got eight out of 10 right, missing normcore and Devo — don’t look them up; that’d be cheating. Okay, I’m outtie. (Outtie, also spelled “outie”: a word originally added to the Oxford Dictionary in 1972 to mean a protruding belly button, but repurposed by Eminem in 8 Mile to mean “I’m done/leaving.”)