It is that time of year again: time to update the dictionary. That means it is also time, now seemingly an annual rite of passage, for the great debate over the demise, or liberation, of the English language—depending on your affinity for the new inductees. On Monday, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary came out with its new list of utterances that are now bona fide dictionary-words. So, feel free to use them in school essays and job applications?
The headliners, and surely the most irksome to language purists, come from the digital world, including: selfie, hashtag, tweep and catfish. Catfish, of course, was already something you could catch and eat or, as Merriam-Webster defines it: “any of an order (Siluriformes) of chiefly freshwater stout-bodied scaleless bony fishes having long tactile barbells.” Now, however, it is also “a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.” So, context is important for that one.
Here are a few more from this year’s 150-plus inductees:
- big data
- social networking
The social media-fueled additions seem to have freed the dictionary-set at Merriam-Webster as they would like you to: “Join the New Words conversation on Twitter using hashtag #MW2014NewWords.”