No ‘shade thrown’ in new dictionary additions - The Herald: #Life

No ‘shade thrown’ in new dictionary additions

Aubrey Hansen | #Life Columnist | Posted: Saturday, April 15, 2017 11:30 am

An update of 1,000 words was made to the Merriam-Webster dictionary on Feb. 7, adding words such as the verbs “ghost” and “face-palm.”

The words added draw from technology, pop culture, science, medicine, sports, foreign languages and more. Every year the online dictionary expands its catalogue with new terms. More examples include “botnet”, “airball”, “microbiome”, “photobomb” and “train wreck.”

How many of these words do A-State students know? A survey was conducted to find out for 10 of these 1,000 words. 25 random students in the student union were read the words and asked if they knew the definition.

Technical language such as “abandonware” (software that is no longer sold or supported by its creator) did poorly in the survey. Out of the 25 students surveyed, only two knew the definition. On the other hand, slang terms such as “ride shotgun” (to ride in the front passenger seat of a vehicle) had a much higher recognition rate, as all 25 of those surveyed said they knew the definition. 

There are 470,000 entries in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, and the number is growing. Many of the words in the 1,000 added are slang terms like these.

Kristi Costello, the director of the Writing Center, is not concerned with the amount of slang in the recent update. 

“I don’t think there is any concern with adding words used daily. Culturally we need to add as many words as we can.”

According to Costello, the dictionary is an invaluable tool, especially for non-native English speakers. The words in a dictionary affect our daily speech very little, but for those whose first language isn’t English it is a great source of information.

“Our dictionary being more inclusive can help be a lens for non-native speakers,” Costello said. 

Costello believes the dictionary does not impact English speakers everyday language because we determine what is in the dictionary, not the other way around. 

“Dictionaries are a reflection of things we say,” Costello said. “We impact them more than they impact us.”

How do dictionaries even choose what words to publish? The answer is simple according to Merriam-Webster--it all begins with tracking word usage. Editors search texts for new words and new usages for existing words. Next, they are turned into citations in physical form and on the computer. These citations document where and when the specific word example is used. Finally, dictionary editors review groups of citations for possible entry into the official dictionary. Words must have enough citations to show that they are both widely used and in circulation for a good amount of time in order for this to happen. 

Exceptions for the time rule include AIDS, which was swiftly added to the dictionary in the 1980’s after it was determined to be firmly established in a short amount of time.

When asked what words she would personally add to the dictionary if given the chance, Costello said, “The dictionary is as updated as I am.”