FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 27, 2009
New dictionary shows our changing vocabulary 'footprint' (noun - impact)
Discuss how newspapers help expand our vocabulary and popularize new expressions.
Look for an example of fresh slang or specialized jargon -- perhaps in an article quote or forum post -- that may wind up in a future dictionary.
Newspapers try to use common language that readers understand. Can you spot an unfamiliar word that isn't defined or clear from how it's used? Look up the meaning and then see if the word also stumps classmates.
Our flexible language bends and expands to fit changes in how we work and play. That's why dictionaries are updated periodically to keep pace -- as the Merriam-Webster publishing firm did by adding nearly 100 words to its Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, released this month in print and online.
Naturally, more than a few newcomers are Internet-related, such as sock puppet, vlogs, webisodes and flash mob. A sock puppet isn't a toy, but rather refers to someone using a false online identity to deceive. A vlog is like a blog, only with video clips. A webisode is a short video or series for online viewing, and a flash mob describes a brief public gathering organized electronically. The new dictionary also adds environment-related words such as carbon footprint (a negative impact) and green-collar (actions for protecting nature).
Merriam-Webster, based near Boston in Springfield, Mass., has been producing dictionaries since Noah Webster created An American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828. Today, more than 180 years later, he wouldn't recognize many entries in the latest descendant of that 19th century reference book. Below is a video -- a word that would stump Webster -- in which the young editor of the Oxford American Dictionary tells how print dictionaries are being transformed for modern users and modern language.
Editor says: "Most of these words have been around for a while, but for some reason they have grabbed the attention of editors this time. . . . When words like 'neuroprotective' and 'cardioprotective' show up in the Collegiate, it's because we've made the judgment that these are not just words used by specialists." -- John Morse, president and publisher at Merriam-Webster
'Locavore' means: A person eating foods grown locally, such as those sold at a farmers' market. It's among dictionary newcomers.
'Reggaeton' means: Popular music style that blends Jamaican reggae with rap (hip-hop). It also is now in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.
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