Merriam-Webster Adds 100 New Words

Posted on July 13, 2007

USA Today reports that Merriam-Webster is adding 100 new words to its dictionary. They include crunk which means "a style of Southern rap music featuring repetitive chants and rapid dance rhythms." There's DVR the abbreviation for digital video recorder. There's also IED which comes from the Iraq War and stands for improvised explosive devices.

If it sounds as though Merriam-Webster is dropping its buttoned-down image with too much talk of "smackdowns" (contests in entertainment wrestling) and "telenovelas" (Latin-American soap operas), consider it also is adding "gray literature" (hard-to-get written material) and "microgreen" (a shoot of a standard salad plant.)

No matter how odd some of the words might seem, the dictionary editors say each has the promise of sticking around in the American vocabulary.

"There will be linguistic conservatives who will turn their nose up at a word like 'ginormous,'" said John Morse, Merriam-Webster's president. "But it's become a part of our language. It's used by professional writers in mainstream publications. It clearly has staying power."

One of those naysayers is Allan Metcalf, a professor of English at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., and the executive secretary of the American Dialect Society.

"A new word that stands out and is ostentatious is going to sink like a lead balloon," he said. "It might enjoy a fringe existence."

The most controversial of the new words may be ginormous - a mesh between enormous and gigantic. Merriam-Webster defines ginormous as "extremely large" and compares it to humongous. Humongous actually sounds like the better word to use when you want to describe something that is extremely large. Merriam-Webster even once had ginormous on a top ten list of words not in the dictionary.

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