On Thursday, June 4, 2020, a 22-year-old activist named Kennedy Mitchum reached out to the publishers of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to express her frustration with their definition of the word "racist:"
A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
Mitchum felt this was inadequate to fully cover the scope of systemic issues and unconscious biases that affect race relations in America. Growing up in Florissant, Missouri — just a few miles away from Ferguson — she'd grown tired of trying to explain to people that racism can come in different forms than cross burning in white hoods. It's not always a conscious, intentional, or deliberate attitude of hateful violence; it's often something more insidious. As she explained to CNN, "That definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world. The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice it's the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans."
Mitchum didn't expect to hear anything back from Merriam-Webster. But to her surprise, they responded the very next day — and after a brief back-and-forth, they were sufficiently convinced of Mitchum's point, and agreed to update the entry. "This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem," wrote Editor Alex Chambers in an email. "We sincerely thank you for repeatedly writing in and apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner." Read the rest
The Merriam-Webster dictionary's word of the year is... "They." According to Merriam-Webster, online dictionary look-ups for the word "they" increased by 313% this year. Others top look-ups include "quid pro quo," "impeach," and "egregious. Makes sense. And it's great that more people are learning that the word "they" is sometimes "used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition. From Merriam-Webster:
English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years.
More recently, though, they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers.
Read the rest
Visit Merriam-Webster's "Time Traveler" and select a year from the drop-down menu. Instantly you'll see the English words that were first used in print that year! More specifically, "the date is for the earliest written or printed use that the (dictionary) editors have been able to discover."
Above are the words first used in print in 1989, the year of the very first bOING bOING print 'zine! Cybernaut! Nanobot! Cyberporn! Those sure were the good ol' daze...
Read the rest
Four years since the last edition, Merriam-Webster's Official Scrabble Players Dictionary
is on now shelves. From The Guardian
Included in the new edition are some long-awaited two letter words, notably OK and ew.
“OK is something Scrabble players have been waiting for, for a long time,” said lexicographer Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster. “Basically two- and three-letter words are the lifeblood of the game.”
There’s more good news for Scrabble players with the addition of qapik, a unit of currency in Azerbaijan, adding to an arsenal of 20 playable words beginning with q that don’t need a u.
The Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary, Sixth Edition (Amazon)
image: thebarrowboy CC BY 2.0
Read the rest
Merriam-Webster added "sheeple" to their dictionary. It's defined as "people who are docile, compliant, or easily influenced : people likened to sheep." Here's one of the two usage examples they include:
Read the rest
Apple's debuted a battery case for the juice-sucking iPhone—an ungainly lumpy case the sheeple will happily shell out $99 for.
Also in the running was "coulrophobia," the fear of clowns, and "hygge," a Danish concept meaning "a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being." From The Guardian:
Read the rest
Defined by the dictionary as an adjective “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, editors said that use of the term “post-truth” had increased by around 2,000% in 2016 compared to last year. The spike in usage, it said, is “in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States”...
Contenders for the title had included the noun “alt-right”, shortened from the fuller form “alternative right” and defined as “an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterised by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content”. First used in 2008, its use “surged” this spring and summer, said the dictionary, with 30% of usage in August alone. Brexiteer was also in the running for the crown, along with non-political terms including coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, and hygge, the Danish concept of cosiness.
But the increase in usage of post-truth saw the term eventually emerge ahead of the pack. “We first saw the frequency really spike this year in June with buzz over the Brexit vote and Donald Trump securing the Republican presidential nomination. Given that usage of the term hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, I wouldn’t be surprised if post-truth becomes one of the defining words of our time,” predicted Oxford Dictionaries president Casper Grathwohl.
In celebration of the centenary of Roald Dahl's birth this month, the Oxford English Dictionary has added words and updated entries related to Dahl's iconic children's books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The BFG. From OED.com:
Read the rest
This update also includes brand new entries and senses for a range of vocabulary best described as Dahlesque—an adjective which makes its first appearance in OED today with a first quotation from 1983 in which a collection of stories is praised for its ‘Dahlesque delight in the bizarre’. These new additions provide Dahl fans with a golden ticket to the first uses and historical development of words like scrumdiddlyumptious, for those occasions when scrumptious simply won’t do (or at all times if you happen to be The Simpsons’ Ned Flanders), and the human bean, which is not a vegetable, although—according to the Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant—it comes in ‘dillions of different flavours’. A new sub-entry for golden ticket itself reveals that (long before Charlie Bucket found his own in the wrapper of a Wonka Whipple-Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delight) the first such ticket was granted to the painter and engraver William Hogarth. Hogarth’s ticket granted the bearer and five companions perpetual free admission to the pleasure gardens of Vauxhall, in return for paintings carried out for the gardens by the artist....
The witching hour, the ‘special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up [is] in a deep deep sleep’, and when the BFG and his bloodthirsty cousins wander abroad, was first mentioned in 1762, in a poem by Elizabeth Carter Keene (now all-but forgotten, and dismissed by one twentieth-century critic as ‘a vapid bungler’), where it is a clear reference to—or misremembering of—Hamlet’s ‘the very witching time of night, When Churchyards yawne, and hell it selfe breakes out Contagion to this world’.
Merriam-Webster is to add "genderqueer" to its unabridged English dictionary; also "cisgender".
Cisgender: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity corresponds with the sex the person had or was identified as having at birth.
Genderqueer: of, relating to, or being a person whose gender identity cannot be categorized as solely male or female.
Which pronoun? TIP: Whichever they want. Read the rest
Dictionary.com set themselves up by posting the above photo with a quote from Abigail Reynold's 2008 novel, Pemberley by the Sea
Merriam-Webster was quick to attack its rival:
Dictionary.com fired back:
Merriam-Webster either gave up or is preparing for a massive counter-attack. Read the rest
The Internet Archive has a complete scan of James Redding Ware's wonderful 1909 treatise "Passing English of the Victorian era: a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase," ganked from the University of Toronto's Robarts library. The Archive has OCR'ed versions, hi-rez PDFs of color and b/w scans, and every ebook format you're likely to need.
If you'd prefer a hardcopy there's a paperback reprint for sale, too. It's really something. Here's a few gems:
Read the rest
Enobs (Back slang). Bone, in
ordinary plural. A very favourite
inversion is a sort of rebus, bones
showing affording a study of ' knobs '.
But he swallowed a box of matches
one day which burnt away all the fat
and left the mere enoba you see now.
Evening wheezes (Peoples').
False news, spread in evening half-
penny papers in order to sell them.
Fairy (Lower Peoples). A debauched, hideous old woman, especially
Fake a poke (Thieves'). To pick,
or manipulate, a pocket. This phrase
is a singular revival. Johnson has
' Fake amongst seamen a pile of rope,'
and as to poke ' a pocket or small
bag'. ' I will not buy a pig in a
poke !' Camden.
He denied that when entering the
music hall he was accused by a larty of
picking her pocket, and further said that
when called out he did not say he had
never ' faked a poke ' in his life. People,
6th September 1896.
Fake pie (Straitened Soc., 1880).
A towards -the-end-of-the- week effort
at pastry, into which go all the ' orts ',
' overs ', and ' ends ' of the week.