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More fun with words
May 16, 2016
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by Ivan Raconteur

As a dedicated student of language, I look forward to the announcement of the list of new words added to the dictionary each year.

Language is a living thing, and over the course of time, some words fall out of favor, while new words gain acceptance.

This year, more than 2,100 new entries were added to Merriam-Webster Unabridged.

Of these, more than 1,400 were new words or phrases, and more than 700 were new senses of existing terms.

Some of these have enjoyed common usage in recent years, while others still seem rather obscure.

My favorite addition for 2016 is “hella.” It is a very useful word, and if it’s good enough for Taylor Swift, it’s good enough for me.

In the adverb sense, it means very or extremely, as in “hella good hair.”

Used as an adjective, it means a lot of something, as in “she makes hella money,” (as well she should).

The first known use of hella was in 1991.

An entry in this year’s list that surprised me was “TMI,” the abbreviation for “too much information.” I would have thought this would have gained acceptance sooner, since it seems to have been in common usage for a long time.

Less surprising is the term “nomophobia,” which is a noun that refers to the fear of being without a working cell phone.

The word is derived from “no mobile,” and the number of people who suffer from this fear has been growing in recent years.

The term has been in use since 2008.

One word from the 2016 list has apparently escaped my attention since 1969. The noun “meet-cute” describes “a cute, charming, or amusing first encounter between romantic partners.”

That may explain why I am unfamiliar with the word. There hasn’t been a lot of romance at the old bachelor estate recently.

Now, if romance should happen to strike, at least I will know what to call it.

Another abbreviation that made Merriam-Webster’s list this year is “ICYMI,” which is short for “in case you missed it,” generally used to refer to previously posted material online.

In addition to the words I like, there are some I definitely don’t.

One of these is the use of “verse” as a transitive verb, meaning to compete against or oppose (a person or team).”

Not only do I find this usage annoying, but it is unnecessary. There are plenty of other good words that accomplish the same thing without making the speaker sound like an imbecile.

Another entry on the 2016 list that I don’t like is “revenge porn,” which refers to posting sexually explicit images of a person online without the person’s consent, especially as a form of revenge or harassment.

I suppose what I find most offensive about this, and what makes me so sad, is that people who once enjoyed an intimate relationship and who were perhaps even in love, feel compelled to stoop to that level to hurt their former partner.

I don’t think I am a hopeless romantic, but it seems to me we ought to set higher standards for ourselves as human beings.

This goes far beyond being ladies and gentlemen. It is a matter of being decent people.

I don’t believe in burning bridges, nor do I feel it is acceptable to use a former relationship to attack another person.

A somewhat related word is “dox” (or “doxx”), which means to publicly identify or publish personal information about a person, especially as a form of punishment or revenge.

The fact that words like these are gaining widespread acceptance suggests people are just mean.

Apart from small people, other small things resulted in a few new entries this year.

Micro loans (small loans for financing entrepreneurial projects), micro credit (credit involving micro loans), and microbeads (microscopic plastic beads used in personal care products such as exfoliants and toothpaste that later pose a threat to water and soil) all made the list.

Finally, one new word this year describes a concept that has been around for a long time.

Athleisure refers to casual clothing designed to be worn for exercising or for general use.

The name might be unfamiliar, but a casual glance around just about any public place will confirm the concept is definitely part of the mainstream.

Words can be fun, and the annual announcement from Merriam-Webster helps to mitigate my FOMO (fear of missing out) when new words gain acceptance.


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