"If a word is frequently used enough by some people, it has to be placed into a reference for all people," Merriam-Webster editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski tells NPR. He says the word has turned up often enough in print — and on social media — to merit its inclusion.
Though Merriam-Webster sadly didn't release the full list of new words, the additions announced today are like a Lexicographer's Guide to 2018 — in all its self-conscious, millennial-obsessed glory.
There's embiggen, mansplain, and hate-watch. Glamping, self-care, and welp. And just in case you feel compelled to render a diagnosis: here's a definition for narcissistic personality disorder.
Jargon gets its day, too. See bandwidth's third meaning: "the emotional or mental capacity necessary to do or consider something."
Despite the novelty of these terms, Sokolowski says Merriam-Webster isn't trying to emulate Urban Dictionary — which has had a definition for dumpster fire since 2008.
Informal and vulgar language changes more quickly than standard English, Sokolowski says, and Urban Dictionary is valuable because it records changes in informal language in real time.
"But we, as a dictionary, are not looking in real time. We are kind of a lag indicator, in financial terms," he explains. "We are really interested in the terms that are here to stay, that we are very unlikely to ever take away from the dictionary."
Dumpster fire is always going to be in the dictionary?
Though he cautions that lexicographers make terrible prognosticators, Sokolowski thinks the term will last.
The phrase had narrow usage on Reddit, he says, before blossoming into a go-to meme on Facebook and Twitter for a wide array of disasters – be they cultural, political or sporting.
"Its breadth is so great today, I am relatively sure it's here to stay," he says. "It's been used so broadly, in the last two to three years especially, that people in the future will have to know what it meant."
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