FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 04, 2008
Our language flexes and stretches, dictionary update shows
Spoken language can be more colorful and inventive than formal writing. Find quotes in the paper that use English with verve, drama and flair.
Slang doesn't belong in most school assignments, but it spices up conversation, entertainment and even the newspaper. Look for informal "street talk" or shorthand expressions in headlines, ads or elsewhere.
Reporters and editors try to use generally recognized words or explain any that may be unfamiliar. Still, unusual jargon or brain-twisting terms can slip into print. Can you spot any? Try to figure out the definition based on the context and then check a reference source to see if you're right.
Given your vocabulary a workout lately? You probably have, even without knowing it. We exercise mental muscles by reaching past weak, tired words to grab vivid, fresher ones. Even your parents likely haven't said "sneakers" or "cassette" lately.
The living, changing status of English keeps dictionary publishers on their toes. About 100 new words and phrases are added to the 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, going on sale Sept. 1. Newcomers include technology terms such as blogosphere, webinar and malware, everyday shorthand such as air quotes, the sport of kiteboarding and a phrase reflecting poker's popularity -- Texas Hold'em.
The refreshed dictionary also features fanboy, which describes a super-fan of a film or comic genre. Other additions come from changes in what Americans eat and drink. They include edamame (immature green soybeans) and pescatarian (a vegetarian whose diet includes fish).
Editor says: "The language has changed to adapt and acknowledge new technologies. Language adapts to society in every field, in every time. That is how it works." -- Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster
Writer says: "Nothing can replace the words nerd or geek to describe an over-enthusiastic devotee, but fanboy helps narrow the field." - Michelle Kung, Wall Street Journal
Publisher says: "Webinar is one more example of the significant ongoing trend for electronic technologies to add words to the language." - John Morse, Merriam-Webster president/publisher
Front Page Talking Points Archive