Merriam-Webster puts out ginormous list of new words
UNITED STATES: It was a ginormous year for the wordsmiths at
Along with embracing the strange-sounding combination of âgiganticâ
and âenormousâ with the obvious definition of âextremely large,â the
publishers also got into Bollywood, sudoku and speed dating.
But their newfound affection for Indiaâs motion-picture industry,
number puzzles and trendy ways to meet people was all meant for a higher
cause: updating the Collegiate Dictionary, which goes on sale this fall
with about 100 newly added words.
As always, the yearly list gives meaning to the latest lingo in
American pop culture, technology and current events.
Thereâs âcrunk,â a style of rap music; the abbreviated âDVR,â for
digital video recorder; and âIED,â shorthand for the improvised
explosive devices that have become fixtures in news stories about the
war in Iraq.
If it sounds as though Merriam-Webster is dropping its buttoned-down
image with too much talk of âsmackdownsâ (contests in entertainment
wrestling) and âtelenovelasâ (Latin-American soap operas), consider also
it is adding âgray literatureâ (hard-to-get written material) and
âmicrogreenâ (a shoot of a standard salad plant.)
No matter how odd or newfangled some of the words might seem, the
dictionary editors say each has the promise of sticking around in the
âThere will be linguistic conservatives who will turn their nose up
at a word like âginormous,ââ said John Morse, Merriam-Websterâs
president. âBut itâs become a part of our language. Itâs used by
professional writers in mainstream publications. It clearly has staying
One of those naysayers is Allan Metcalf, a professor of English at
MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois, and the executive secretary
of the American Dialect Society. âA new word that stands out and is
ostentatious is going to sink like a lead balloon,â he said. âIt might
enjoy a fringe existence.â
But Merriam-Webster traces ginormous back to 1948, when it appeared
in a British dictionary of military slang. And in the past several
years, its use has become, well, ginormous.
Visitors to the Springfield, Massachusetts-based dictionary
publisherâs Web site picked âginormousâ as their favorite word that is
not in the dictionary in 2005, and Merriam-Webster editors have spotted
it in countless newspaper and magazine articles since 2000.
That is essentially the criteria for making it into the Collegiate
Dictionary - if a word shows up often enough in mainstream writing, the
editors consider defining it.
But as editor Jim Lowe puts it: âNobody has to use âginormousâ if
they donât want to.â
For the record, he does not.
Massachusetts, Wednesday, AP.