Slew of modern terms now in Merriam-Webster's
Is it acceptable to serve edamame to a dinner guest who's a pescatarian?
Should you pour prosecco or soju for the winner of the Texas Hold `em game you're planning near the infinity pool? And what's that wing nut in the corner saying about dirty bombs and nasty Noroviruses?
Before your next party, go ahead and consult the latest edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, which now includes edamame (immature green soybeans), pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats fish) and about 100 other newly added words that have taken root in the American lexicon.
The wordsmiths at the Springfield, Mass.-based dictionary publisher say they picked the new entries after monitoring their use over years.
"As soon as we see the word used without explanation or translation or gloss, we consider it a naturalized citizen of the English language," said Peter Sokolowski, an editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster. "If somebody is using it to convey a specific idea and that idea is successfully conveyed in that word, it's ready to go in the dictionary."
Many of the new entries reflect the nation's growing interest in the culinary arts, including prosecco (a sparkling Italian wine) and soju (a Korean vodka distilled from rice). Others define new technology or products, such as infinity pool - an outdoor pool with an edge designed to make water appear to flow into the horizon.
Others reflect current events and much-discussed news topics,including dirty bomb (a conventional bomb that releases radioactive material) and Norovirus (small, round single-stranded RNA viruses, such as the Norwalk Virus).
And then there's "mondegreen." In a category of its own, it describes words mistaken for other words. A mondegreen most often comes from misunderstood phrases or lyrics.
It comes from an old Scottish ballad in which the lyric "laid him on the green" has been confused over time with "Lady Mondegreen."
Among the best-known modern examples: "There's a bathroom on the right" in place of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "There's a bad moon on the rise" and "'Scuse me, while I kiss this guy" in place of "kiss the sky" in the 1967 Jimi Hendrix classic "Purple Haze."
Even Sokolowski, a word expert by trade, has a favorite mondegreen: "Lucy in the sky with diamonds," as sung by the Beatles in 1967, made obvious sense to the preteen Peanuts comic fan as "Lucy in the sky with Linus."
Merriam-Webster's editors were so amused by the mondegreen concept that they plan to ask people to submit their favorites on the publishing company's Web site.
Mondegreen, first spotted in print in 1954, was among tens of thousands of words the wordsmiths watched for decades.
That and others make the cut for the dictionary based on how widely they are used in publications ranging from newspapers to technical manuals.
"They can float for decades. What that means, for the most part, is that they've been used in more spoken forms than they were found written until recently," Sokolowski said.
John Morse, Merriam-Webster's president and publisher, said the cleverness of many Web-related terms makes them easy to grasp and gives them staying power. Webinar (an online meeting) is new, along with netroots (political grass-roots activists who communicate online, especially in blogs).
"There's a kind of collective genius on the part of the people developing this technology, using vocabulary that is immediately accessible to all of us," he said. "It's sometimes absolutely poetic."
SOME NEW WORDS
Merriam-Webster Inc. has added more than 100 new entries to its new edition of the Collegiate Dictionary. Here are some, along with the year in which Merriam-Webster first found them used in an English-language publication:
Edamame (1951): Immature green soybeans, usually in the pod.
Fanboy (1919): Boy who is an enthusiastic devotee, such as of comics or movies.
Mental health day (1971): Day that an employee takes off from work to relieve stress or renew vitality.
Mondegreen (1954): Word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung. From the mishearing in a Scottish ballad of "laid him on the green" as "Lady Mondegreen."
Netroots (2003): Grass-roots political activists who communicate via the Internet, especially by blogs.
Norovirus (2002): Any of a genus of small round single-stranded RNA viruses; specifically, Norwalk virus.
Pescatarian (1993): Vegetarian whose diet includes fish.
Prosecco (1881): A dry Italian sparkling wine.
Subprime (1995) 1: Having or being an interest rate that is higher than a prime rate and is extended especially to low-income borrowers; 2: extending or obtaining a subprime loan.
Webinar (1998): Live, online educational presentation during which participating viewers can submit questions and comments.
Wing nut (circa 1900): Slang: one who advocates extreme measures or changes; radical.
Sources: Merriam-Webster Inc., The Associated Press
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