Merriam-Webster gets an f-bomb, and much more, in this year’s new-words list

merriam-webster-gets-f-bomb-and-much-more-years-new-words-list
Merriam-Webster released its 2012 new-words list. ()
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Jed Lipinski

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It is now mid-August, which means that the editors at Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary have chosen yet another series of new words that they felt deserved official dictionary definitions.

Last year saw the arrival of more than 150 new words that shed light on our cultural moment, including tweet, fist bump, bromance, and boomerang child: “a young adult who returns to live at his or her family home especially for financial reasons.”

This year’s list is equally impressive, with entries like gastropub, game changer, mash up, cloud computing, f-bomb, and flexitarian making the cut. Addressing what makes the latest crop of words distinctive, Kory Stamper, an associate editor at Merriam-Webster, noted that an unusual number of them have sports origins.

“Gassed and f-bomb were both first used in sports,” she said. “And energy drink initially referred to health tonics in a sports and fitness context.”

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Interestingly, of the current online list only f-bomb is accompanied with what Merriam-Webster editors refer to as an “example sentence.” That sentence, or the part of a sentence used, is: “accidentally dropped an f–bomb on television,” and it comes courtesy of Timothy Kurkjian, the Major League Baseball analyst of "SportsCenter" fame. A quick Google search reveals that Kurkjian, writing for ESPN’s website, was referring to Astros pitcher Brad Lidge, who was so overjoyed after his team clinched the National League Wild Card spot that he dropped an f-bomb “during a post-game celebration."

Of all the possible examples of f-bomb usage since the word’s presumed origin in 1988, why did this particular sentence, or fragment, make the cut?

“It’s an interesting process,” said Stamper. “When you become a Merriam-Webster lexicographer, you go through months of training to learn how to write definitions and how to read sources to find new words. But you also go through months of training on how to craft and find really excellent example sentences.”

The best example sentences are short and don’t contain what editors call narrative interest, Stamper said.

“When choosing an example sentence for chair, for example, you don’t want to say things like: ‘She was bludgeoned to death with a chair.’ Because that doesn’t tell the dictionary user anything about what chair means. It sidetracks them from the definition, which is primary.”

Tim Kurkjian’s f-bomb usage was perfect, Stamper added, because it is short and shows the most idiomatic use of the word, which is “to drop an f-bomb.” “It gives you enough context so that you know how to use in a sentence and how to mimic the usage if you need to,” she said.

With that in mind, here are 25 new words with their definitions and the date of first known use. (For reasons that were not revealed to this reporter, the complete list is never released.)

aha moment n (1939) : a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension

brain cramp n (1982) : an instance of temporary mental confusion resulting in an error or lapse of judgment

bucket list n (2006) : a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying

cloud computing n (2006) : the practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the Internet

copernicium n (2009) : a short-lived artificially produced radioactive element that has 112 protons

craft beer n (1986) : a specialty beer produced in limited quantities : microbrew

earworm n (1802) 1 : corn earworm 2 : a song or melody that keeps repeating in one’s mind

energy drink n (1904) : a usually carbonated beverage that typically contains caffeine and other ingredients (as taurine and ginseng) intended to increase the drinker’s energy

e-reader n (1999) : a handheld electronic device designed to be used for reading e-books and similar material

f-bomb n (1988) : the word fuck — used metaphorically as a euphemism

flexitarian n (1998) : one whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish

game changer n (1993) : a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way

gassed adj (1919) ... 2 slang : drained of energy : spent, exhausted

gastropub n (1996) : a pub, bar, or tavern that also offers meals of high quality

geocaching n (2000) : a game in which players are given the geographical coordinates of a cache of items which they search for with a GPS device

life coach n (1986) : an advisor who helps people make decisions, set and reach goals, or deal with problems

man cave n (1992) : a room or space (as in a basement) designed according to the taste of the man of the house to be used as his personal area for hobbies and leisure activities

mash-up n (1859) : something created by combining elements from two or more sources: as a : a piece of music created by digitally overlaying an instrumental track with a vocal track from a different recording b : a movie or video having characters or situations from other sources c : a Web service or application that integrates data and functionalities from various online sources

obesogenic adj (1986) : promoting excessive weight gain : producing obesity

sexting n (2007) : the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone

shovel-ready adj (1998) of a construction project or site : ready for the start of work

systemic risk n (1982) : the risk that the failure of one financial institution (as a bank) could cause other interconnected institutions to fail and harm the economy as a whole

tipping point n (1959) : the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place

toxic adj (1664) ... 4 : relating to or being an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market

underwater adj (1672) ... 3 : having, relating to, or being a mortgage loan for which more is owed than the property securing the loan is worth