by Kim Pederson…….
On April 20, 2016, Merriam-Webster posted this article in its A Thing about Words blog: “2,000 New Words and Senses Added to Merriam-Webster Unabridged.” Thankfully, it didn’t list all 2,000 words and senses, just a few to give you a taste of what’s new and now “official” in our language. These are words like “waggle dance” (what bees do), “dipsogenic” (producing thirst), “ICYMI” (in case you missed this it stands for “in case you missed it”),”hella” (extremely or much of), and “dox” (to publicly identify or publish information about a person with negative intent; “dox” is a respelling of “docs”).
So, after adding 2,000 more, how many words are there in the English language anyway? No one really knows. One could, if one were insane, sit done with an unabridged dictionary and start counting. Or one could turn to the Global Language Monitor (GLM), which thinks we have exactly 988,968 words in English. You might be interested to know (or not) that besides counting words with their algorithm, the GLM people have taken on another intriguing task: “Top Words for the First 15 Years of the 21st Century & the Trends They Portend.” The list contains 40 terms. Here are a few of note (to me anyway):
- Word: selfie. Comment: Evidently an ego-manical [sic] madness gripped the world in 2013-14. 21st Century Trend: The more people populate the planet, the greater the focus on the individual.
- Word: the above-mentioned hella. Comment: An intensive in Youthspeak, generally substituting for the word “very” as in “hella expensive.” Trend: The world is being subdivided into the various tribes of youth. [Oh, good. Animal Farm is coming.]
- Word: singularity. Comment: Singularity was originally the name for the Cosmic Genesis Event (the Big Bang). Trend: Spoiler Alert: Now used to describe when computer intelligence surpasses that of humans (SKYNET!!–possibly before mid-century).
- Word: God Particle. Comment: The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) continues its quest for the Higgs boson, popularly known as the God Particle [now found by the way]. Trend: Scientists have calculated a one in fifty million chance that the LHC will generate a small black hole that could devour the Earth. [ICYMI, it hasn’t done this yet.]
To end on a positive note (of sorts), I was inspired to create my own trendy word by one item in the GLM list. I think these two go hand in hand. Here are both for your perusal:
- GLM Word: truthiness. Comment: Steven Colbert’s addition to the language appears to be a keeper. While something may not meet the standard of truth, it certainly appears to be true. Trend: Truthiness seems to set the new standard, unfortunately.
- My Word: trumprication. Comment: A bastardization of “fabrication” that characterizes pretty much any statement uttered by our new president. Trend: I see a whole line of words spawned in the future by this one, maybe enough to get English over the one million mark, words like “trumpricalicious” for particularly juicy pronouncements, “trumpricatory” for actions shamelessly emulating the president’s “trumpricacious” behavior, and “trumpricaphobia” and the attendant “trumpricaphile” and “trumpricaphobe” that will surely appear in the sixth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders being, I’m certain, rushed to press right now.
Well, that’s enough multisyllabic words for one day. I wouldn’t want to start an epidemic of
hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (fear, if you didn’t guess, of words longer than “SAD!” or “DUMB!” or “LOSER!”).
*By Larousse – Nouveau Dictionnaire larousse 1899, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23883305.
Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.