Perhaps the most wonderful thing about the English language is how malleable, how adaptive it is. It's a rare form of linguistic expression that's not utterly dependant on inflexible rules and cases and all that mumbo jumbo. English breathes, it lives. It's in that spirit of growth that Merriam-Webster continuously updates its glossary in order to capture English at its most current and its most vital. Lately, though, I must admit, both Merriam and Webster have kind of been scraping the bottom of the barrel.
On Monday, Merriam-Webster released 150 new definitions for a slew of words both completely new and simply repurposed. This marks the first time in two years that Merriam-Webster has updated it's word offering. New words included Internet trends like "selfie," "hashtag" and "tweep" as well as culinary entries like pho (which I didn't know was ours to take) and Thanksgiving monstrosities like "turducken" - which is an unholy combination of turkey, duck and chicken.
Not content to confine themselves purely to the kitchen or social media, however, the folks at Merriam-Webster also added industry terms like "fracking" and the word every office employee has come to fear: "gamification."
Meanwhile, Merriam-Webster also re-appropriated some classics to reflect the words’ changing meanings. "Brilliant," for example, now means "sweet" or "cool," rather than just "smart" (thanks Brits!). "Yooper" - a slang term for someone from Michigan's Upper Peninsula - is also finally getting a little recognition with its own entry; take it from someone who went to school in the Midwest, though, and don't go dropping "Yooper" freely. That word gets used pejoratively a lot, so they're a bit sensitive about it. Finally, a word to retired old men: "catfishing" no longer means what you think it means.
Not every inclusion seems totally justified, though. "Big data," for example, appears to merit its own definition, which reads thusly: "An accumulation of data that is too large and complex for processing by traditional database management tools." To this under-informed writer it would seem that "too much data" would cover that entire term without needing to cram another word into an already deliciously overstuffed book. That, however, is just one man's opinion.
Peter Sokolowski, a lexicographer and editor at large for Merriam-Webster, defended the choices to the Huffington Post, saying "One of the most important things we have to watch is the trendiness of language, so we don't want to put a word in that will then have to come out," Sokolowski said. "We want to make sure a word is here to stay."
Considering Webster's previous offerings in 2012 legitimized some unfortunate (but admittedly stalwart) options like "sexting," "gastropub" and "f-bomb," it seems these guys know what they're talking about.