Wednesday, April 05, 2017


In February, when I was apparently too busy staring off into space to notice, Merriam Webster announced the new words that they’d just added to their online dictionary. More than one thousand of them, and I say bring it on.

I like Seussian ("of, relating to, or suggestive of the works of Dr. Seuss"), but given the current sitch, might they not want to also add anti-Seussian (“crazy and made up, but, unlike Dr. Sesuss, malevolently so”). And if sitch isn’t in there, they might want to make room for that as well.

Prosopagnosia ("an inability to recognize faces") is also in there, perhaps in tribute to the late Oliver Sacks, who suffered from this disorder and wrote about it. Curiously, I recently met a woman with prosopagnosia, who told me that the next time I see her, I would need to reintroduce myself.

There are a number of tech terms, including abandonware (“software that is no longer sold or supported by its creator”). Would that this term had been around during my career, the path of which was full of jettisoned software. In one company I worked for, we had an in-office Halloween Party in which we were all asked to come as dead products. (Management didn’t find it quite as amusing as we all did.)

I’m surprised that it’s taken all this time for airball to make the show. And I guess that we’re just getting around to supercentenarian, or those who make it to 110+, because there are now so many of them. (Maybe I’ll feel different if I’m still around in 2059, but, at this point, I’m thinking that I’d rather see than be one.)

Foodies are represented by arancini, EVOO, and macaron. I like macarons just fine, but I find them prettier than they are tasty. Arancini: yum! What a great invention. A whole new meaning to fried rice. Thank you, Italian cooks! As for EVOO, my palate’s not refined enough to detect the difference between EVOO and plain old VOO.

The political sphere gave us truther, SCOTUS, and FLOTUS. To hell with truthers. The jury’s out on whether it’s to hell with SCOTUS. And, personally, I want my old FLOTUS back. (Miss you, MO…)

What else? Train-wreck, throw shade, geek out, yowza… Love them all. And boo-hoo is now a verb! Bravo!

There were a couple of words that were new to me on the list. Bokeh, for instance. The definition is “the blurred quality or effect seen in the out-of-focus portion of a photograph taken with a narrow depth of field.” Sure, every once in a while I’ll notice a blurred bit on an old snapshot – especially pics taken using the family’s trustee 1950’s vintage Polaroid. But, really, how often does the need for the word “bokeh” come up in conversation. Oh, one might say pretty often in a world of Instagram and Snapchat, but that’s not a word world, so…

Then there are microaggression, safespace, and first world problem. Interestingly, microaggressions and safespaces are pretty darned good examples of first world problems. (Should I have put a trigger warning in there?)

My favorite Merriam-Webster add may be wayback machine, something entirely familiar to those of us who grew up watching “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” on the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

My least favorite? Pareidolia – “the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern.” You learn something new every day, but I suspect I’ll go to my grave (well before I become a supercentenarian) without ever having used this one, happy just to be able to look up in the sky and say “that cloud looks like an elephant.”

Not to be outdone, (Random House) added some 300 new words, one of which is 420. I wasn’t familiar with this numero-wordo, but should have been, given that Hempfest is held each year practically in my front yard (the Boston Common), and 420 refers to smoking cannabis. Oh wow. (Not to be confused with woo-woo, which made the list at Merriam-Webster.)

As April 20th is Hitler’s birthday – now how did I know that? – I would have thought that 420 would be more associated with the alt-right, which is, in fact, on the list of newbies.

They had some pretty good ones – bitchface (but not resting bitchface), clicktivism, burkini, man bun, and mic drop. And some odd ones.

Stochastic terrorism: is “the public demonization of a person or group resulting in the incitement of a violent act, which is statistically probable but whose specifics cannot be predicted.” (Source: Mashable)

Not that this one doesn’t make sense, given how much stochastic terrorism’s been going around of late.

Struggle bus? “A situation, task, etc., that seems difficult or frustrating.”

Which sounds like something that would only be used in conversation with a four-year old. But I guess there are plenty of days when the wheels of the struggle bus go round and round for all of us.

Uncanny valley: “a psychological concept that describes the feelings of unease or revulsion that people tend to have toward artificial representations of human beings, as robots or computer animations, that closely imitate many but not all the features and behaviors of actual human beings.”

I mean, I get the definition, but “uncanny valley”?

Huh? What’s the opposite of yowza?


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