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4 new words in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and what they say about 2019

4 new words in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and what they say about 2019
[Photo: Amador Loureiro/Unsplash]

Much to the chagrin of rule-obsessed grammarians across the land, the English language is forever in flux. Today, the Merriam-Webster dictionary proved as much with the announcement that it has added more than 530 new words for September 2019. 

What a mouthful. For context, the typical American only knows about 42,000 words in total, so if you learn all these new ones, you’ll be upping your vocabulary by about 1.25%. Of course, you don’t actually have to do that. Most of the new entries are words or combinations of words we already know, just applied in different contexts. Some of them—many of them, actually—speak directly to our times. For instance:

  • Deep state: The dictionary folks describe this as “an alleged secret governmental network operating extralegally.” Conspiracy theorists may be put off by the word “alleged” in this definition, but then if you’re convinced the deep state is a real thing (and I’m not saying it isn’t), then you’re the reason we needed this entry in the first place.
  • They: Merriam-Webster has expended the definition of this pronoun to include references to a “single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” Grammar sticklers will certainly continue to argue over when and where the use of singular “they” is appropriate, but when it comes to identity, you should use the pronoun the person prefers—and now people who don’t do that can’t hide behind the lazy excuse that it’s “just not grammatically correct.”
  • Red flag law: This is among the more disturbingly necessary entries. M-W defines it as a law that allows “courts to prevent people who show signs of being a danger to themselves or others from having access to firearms.” The dictionary notes that it’s been in use since 2015, and until the United States gets some meaningful action from Washington on gun control, it’s likely to be seen more and more frequently in the months and years to come.
  • Pain point: Congratulations, brand experts and CMOs. You’ve made your mark!

You can read all about the dictionary’s new additions here.

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