October 3, 2017

New Words in the Dictionary

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

It had to happen sooner or later. Binge-watch is now officially ensconced in the American English language. As are riding shotgun, throwing shade, and train wreck. Roughly 1,000 new terms have recently been added to the dictionary, but don't despair if you can't find time to learn them all. Some are so 2017 that they are guaranteed a short shelf life.

One that doesn't deserve immortalization is woo-woo, slang for describing someone that's really out there. You will never hear menor any other self-respecting manresorting to using "woo-woo". People would think I was cray-cray. (Please, Merriam-Webster, never let cray-cray make it in.)

I do, however, kinda like humblebrag.  To humblebrag is to make a seemingly self-critical statement that is really intended to boast ("I only came in second place in the entire country"). Instead of fishing for a compliment, it baits and hooks itself.

Among the more interesting additions is wayback machine, which relates to going back in time, if only in the mind. Mr. Peabody and Sherman were using that very device back in 1961. Why it's only caught on after 56 years must have something to do with Netflix.

That said, you'll also be hearing wayback used as a noun in an entirely different context, referring to the area in the back of a van, which you can open up by putting the rear seats down. To my knowledge, it doesn't help you go back in time.

Meanwhile, there are other words that are on the verge of verbal extinction.  While you can still find them in the dictionary, word has it that it won't be for much longer. They include frutescent (resembling a shrub), muliebrity (femininity) and snoutfair (describing someone attractive or charming, even though the word is neither).

Since some of these terms are rarely used anymore, such as agrestic (rural), embrangled (confused), or rum peeper (mirror), it's only right that they be exuviated (cast off).  But I will miss skedaddle, because there are times when I actually do skedaddle, and will no longer know what to call it.

Words come and go, and fortunately only a couple of the lamer offerings mentioned in my 2016 post on the subject have survived. The wise writer will do well to avoid fly-by-night phrases that readers won't identify with in thirty or forty years, unless the goal is specifically to date a character by using dialogue du jour.

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