Point of No Return — State of the world can be found in state of words
“Look it up.”
As a kid, that phrase meant that I had to trudge my way to our family’s bookcase, pull out the 9,274-pound dictionary that was stitched together sometime during the Germanic Wars, and hope that the word or phrase I already regretted asking my mother about was indeed in the book.
If it was, and I could adequately explain to my Latin-teaching mother that I understood its meaning, then I would be subjected to hearing, “It actually comes from the Latin word (insert boring story here)...”
If it wasn’t, then the search of the bookcase raged on, as I flipped through edition after edition of our 462-volume encyclopedia set — half of which were in fact in our bookcase, while the other half were serving as doorstops, lap-desks for people sitting on couches or being used as improvised bug-killing machines. If I found the answer in the encyclopedia, then I told Mom, heard the etymology of the word, or series of words, and went about my day.
If not, I either chalked it up as something not really worth worrying about, or I found myself going through the stacks at the local library — obsessed with figuring out what I came for, and promising myself that I wouldn’t tell my mother later if I did, or risk another story about how Latin is the true genesis of our language...
But I digress.
I think often about how much all of this has changed over the years. Now, if the definition of a word escapes me, or a historical reference flies far above my head, I go to Google. If I’m wondering about who played shortstop for the 1966 St. Louis Cardinals (Dal Maxvill) or how many albums were put out by Miles Davis (at least 51 studio albums), the answer is right in my pocket, courtesy of my smartphone.
And, just as the English language acts as a living, breathing organism that constantly changes and adapts to new phrases and words, the modern dictionary does, as well. Technology has breathed life into new words that have become both socially and intellectually accepted, and many of the grammatical shortcuts that people use in social media to communicate with one another have made their way into our accepted modern-day lexicon.
As a fan of the ever-changing English language, my curiosity is always engaged when I hear that Merriam-Webster has released its list of newly-minted words. Earlier this week, the dictionary behemoth announced that it has opened its proverbial doors to 840 new words. That is 840 more opportunities to get points on a Scrabble board if Merriam-Webster is your go-to “legitimizer,” and possibly 840 more words for me to officially misspell in this space every week. So, yeah, there’s that to look forward to, if you are so inclined.
Without further adieu, I present to you some of the new words deemed legitimate by the fine people at Merriam-Webster that jumped out the most to me:
• “TL;DR” is now recognized by Merriam-Webster. It is shorthand for “too long; didn’t read” and is often found in the comments sections of Internet postings — also known as, “The cesspool of all that is wrong in a civilized society.” If you couldn’t tell, I get annoyed by comments on many web postings, as a good number of them appear to be people trying to one-up each other on how extreme they can get in making a point, or uninformed yahoos spitting forth uninformed opinions. “TL;DR” confirms that people spew out takes on issues without actually reading up on those issues, and I chalk that up as one of the greatest problems in our world today — right up there with non-stretchy jeans.
• “Hangry” is now an official word, and the world is better for it. For the uninitiated, it is a cross between “hungry” and “angry” and best describes my emotional temperature at about 10:30 a.m. if I skipped breakfast, or sometime around 2 p.m. if lunch didn’t happen.
• “Adorbs” (short for “adorable”), “rando” (“random”) and “fav” (“favorite”) have made their way into our official language, according to Merriam-Webster, thus ensuring our methods of communication will only become lazier in the future. Did we need to shorten “random” by dropping the “m” at the end? Does that save someone from future arthritis by not having to drop a finger on one more key while typing? Can we just go ahead and call people “stupi” while we’re at it?
• “Food bank,” “tent city” and “self-harm” all made the cut at Merriam-Webster, “reflecting societal problems and struggles of many kinds,” according to a release from the company. I don’t have anything to add here. These are weird and sad days.
• “Biohacking” makes the cut, and basically describes the exploitation of genetic material, with no regards to accepted ethics, from what I can put together. I confess I originally thought it described me trying to cheat on a biology test in high school — which also showed a serious lack of ethics.
• “Airplane mode” and “force quit” both became official terms this year, and I’d explain these further, but it looked like a lot of words, so TL;DR.