From an early age, I was fascinated with words, a harbinger of what was to come with my chosen career as an English teacher and my evolution as a writer, not to mention my unparalleled career as a big mouth.
So, I welcomed the news earlier this spring that the English language was about to get an infusion, thanks to the good lexicologists whose responsibility it is to publish new editions of the Oxford English Dictionary and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. They will each be adding more than 600 new entries into their next editions, giving all us language lovers some extra building blocks to construct our thoughts.
Actually, the way this works when words are added to dictionaries — books that in hard copy are perched on the rim of the deep abyss of obsolescence thanks to all that Googling and Alexa-asking that goes on in these days of instant informational gratification — is the words have really already come into being through people’s using them before they’re given the old lexicological seal of approval by being welcomed into a new dictionary edition.
For the Oxford English Dictionary folks, it was June of last year when they asked people around the globe to submit new word possibilities, both standard and slang, scientific and technical, and literary and regional as well. As for the latter, for example, while those folks over in England refer to a certain veggie with the term “spring onion,” the newest Oxford English Dictionary edition now will include the Welsh English for the very same veggie, jibbon.
While the Oxford English Dictionary list, much more international in scope, came out in March, I was much more interested in the list from Merriam-Webster Dictionary that came out in April, since the entries have greater relevance to us North Americans.
Another reason I’m partial to the list from Merriam-Webster Dictionary is dripping with sentimentality. You see, those red hardback-covered dictionaries that I placed on the storage shelves under all 28 of my student desks in Room 16 where I taught my troops at the Memorial High School that no longer blocks the view of Skip Baughman Stadium from West South Street in St. Marys all bore the title Merriam-Webster.
As I perused the list, I noticed several entries from the world of sports and exercise. Despite being a commonly used expression for decades now for the surgery that reconstructs the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow and was named after the baseball pitcher who first underwent the procedure in 1974, it took until this past April before Merriam-Webster Dictionary allowed the term Tommy John surgery into its ranks.
By adding this eponymous entry, the folks at Merriam-Webster Dictionary made me smile, since I’ve always been a sucker for words that originate from people’s names. I thought of that recently while drinking a cold glass of pasteurized milk and munching on my favorite salad, the one named for Robert H. Cobb, the late owner of the Brown Derby Restaurant who was credited with first deciding to throw together for a late-night repast at his restaurant lettuce, hard-boiled egg, avocado, tomato, chicken, onion, bacon and blue cheese.
As for other sports-related entries, Merriam-Webster Dictionary added the adjective swole (extremely muscular), the hyphenated noun heart-stopper (a shocking or thrilling event) and the noun garbage time (designating the end of a one-side game when scoring becomes easier due to subs and lax defensive effort).
Another on Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s list that caught my eye was the adjective buzzy (describing a loud buzzing sound or an event that generates a lot of excitement), not to be confused with my most excellent friend Denny Bauman’s proper noun moniker, “Buzzy.”
Inveterate TV viewers, no doubt, will welcome the new noun entry bottle episode (a television episode produced with little expense and typically in one setting with limited cameras), which is a perfect term for a whole bunch of reality shows.
And, on the list of new entries, there also were new meanings for old words, such as the noun snowflake, now recognized as a term for someone who is overly sensitive.
As for future possibilities I’ve heard that have yet to make either Oxford English Dictionary or Merriam-Webster Dictionary, well, those have come through the years from both loved ones and good friends. Once upon a time, and I’ll cry if I dwell too long on those precious moments from so long ago, my little Katie used to admonish me for occasionally not using my turn signal by saying, “Dad, you forgot to use your tick-tacker!” Adding tick-tacker would add yet another entry to a really fun group of words, those onomatopoeic entries like smack, clatter and sizzle.
And, my pal and fellow baseball devotee Dave Busick, when trying to express over-the-top affirmation, has been known to say enthusiastically, “Absitively,” to which I am always compelled to volley back, “Posilutely!”
As for my suggested entry the next time there’s another infusion, how about a collective noun, say, archlandia, which could represent a collection of McDonald’s? If I can get enough of you to start using it, that’ll get this thing out of the starter blocks!
And, so it goes with our wonderful language. It is constantly evolving and reshaping itself with new entries that come into being, first, as we talk to one another, and then for the luckiest of our new words and expressions by those lexicographers who periodically say, “Come on in to our next edition, and welcome to the club!”
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.