New dictionary entries help us stay current with words

For those of you who missed it, it was announced earlier this week that the Merriam-Webster dictionary added some entries. There were 640 additions, in fact.

As a newspaper staff, we at The Mining Journal, of course, have an interest in these additions. After all, words are of paramount importance to us.We know language is an ever-evolving thing.

The Associated Press story on the matter highlighted these Merriam-Webster additions: get swole, prepare a bug-out bag, grab a go-cup and survive omnicide.

AP offered these translations — get swole is to hit the gym and bulk up; to prepare a bug-out bag is put a bunch of stuff essential for survival in an easy-to-carry bag; grab a go-cup is to get a drink for the road; and omnicide is living through a man-made disaster that could wipe out the human race.

These additions are not added lightly. The AP story said deciding what gets included is a painstaking process involving the Springfield, Massachusetts-based company’s roughly two dozen lexicographers, said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large.

These folks scan online versions of newspapers, magazines, academic journals, books and even movie and television scripts until they detect what he calls “a critical mass” of usage that warrants inclusion.

First these “new” words are added to the online dictionary with some later added to print updates of the company’s popular Collegiate Dictionary, which has sold more than 50 million copies since 1898, making it the “best-selling hardcover book after the Bible,” according to Merriam-Webster staff.

“So many people use our website as their principal dictionary and we want it to be current,” Sokolowski said. “We want to be as useful as possible.”

The 640 additions include mostly new words, or phrases, but also includes some old words with new meanings or applications, citing words like unplug and snowflake, for example. Unplug means to literally tug an electric plug from a wall socket, but now, it also has a more metaphorical meaning, as in to disconnect from social media.

Snowflake is still a beautiful ice crystal that floats from the sky during winter, but it now also has a usually disparaging meaning of “someone who is overly sensitive,” according to Merriam-Webster’s definition.

Some of the words have been around for decades, but are included in the dictionary because of increased usage.

With the rapid advance of science, many new words come from the fields of technology and medicine.

In the internet age when it’s sometimes difficult to determine whether the vast amounts of information we’re exposed to is accurate, the dictionary is a rock, Sokolowski said.

“We need the dictionary more than ever now that we have information flying at us from all directions,” he said.

Indeed. Like Merriam-Webster, may we all always strive to keep up with the additions and variations in our language.