Dictionary offers all new options


English is a language of adaptation. The language itself is a conglomeration of already-established dialects, and has continued to grow as it assimilates itself to jargon, new technology and conversational fads. It’s a beautiful thing, in that the way we converse with one another is through a breathing, growing idiom that changes just as frequently as the rest of the world around us does.

As our language grows, new words and phrases are often passed along through oral communication — one person says something, another thinks it sounds good and begins saying it, and so on, and so on, and so on. Before you know it, half the country is using the new lexicon, and it begins to become accepted.

But there’s a final stamp of approval that’s necessary for a word to really become accepted in our society — inclusion in the granddaddy of all lists of approved English words, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Tricia Titus, our news editor and my fellow lover of the English language, always sends me the new list of words as soon as Merriam-Webster posts them. We always share a chuckle at some of the new ones that made the cut, and pontificate on others that will soon follow.

Yeah, we’re dorks. We know that. But we have fun, anyway.

This year’s list, for instance, includes “Bollywood” — a reference to Bombay being the center location for filming movies in India. It’s a term that has been used very frequently for several years now, and now has the stamp of approval by Merriam-Webster, and that’s good enough for me.

Also making the cut this year is “crunk.” This is a term that has been applied to rap music from the South — largely the Atlanta area — that has a different sound to it than traditional rap. There is a lot of repetitive lyrics, a party-like beat and usually quite a bit of screaming. It’s like deadline at the Coastal Point, without the foaming of the mouth and threats of jumping out a window.

But I’m not going to spend the rest of this column picking on Susan Lyons ...

Also entering our official lexicon this year is DVR, or digital video recorder. The craze really kicked off when TiVo burst on to the scene and offered television viewers the ability to record their shows without tapes, and to watch recorded programs while something else was being recorded. The DVR has grown in both technology and popularity, and the inclusion of the word into the dictionary was probably a no-brainer. Today’s DVRs now allow people to record more than one show at once, while watching another recorded show. That allows me to sit at home all night and watch re-runs of the 2002 World Series of Poker while recording two separate Angelina Jolie movies at the same time.

Man, this is truly a wonderful age.

The war in Iraq has also brought a few acronyms into everyday language, and Merriam-Webster has identified that. Both IED (improvised explosive device) and RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) have made their way from the headlines in newspapers to the inside of our dictionary, and I’d have to say that I wish neither of those words existed.

But that’s for another day.

Another rather aggressive word that made the cut this year is “smackdown” — a term that got much of its popularity when connected to the antics of professional wrestling, but at its base means to knock somebody down by striking him or her. Isn’t it a little scary that we need so many words to describe hurting somebody?

On the flip side of hurting somebody, there is loving somebody. On the flip side of love, we have “speed dating” — an event where a bunch of single people get together and spend a predetermined amount of time one-on-one with a member of the opposite sex before moving on to the next person. Judging by my own past history, that means that I could have been rejected by a record number of women in a record amount of time had I ever gone that route.

Because we obviously didn’t have enough words to describe something that is really big, the dictionary decided this year to include “ginormous.” It seems a little superfluous to combine “gigantic” and “enormous” to form a whole new word, but I guess that’s not too big of a streach. Get it? See, what I did was combine “stretch” and “reach” to formulate a whole new ...

But I digress.

Anyway, I have a lot of stuff to do, so we’re going to cut off the column at this point. There’s this really big movie out of Bollywood that’s getting ginormous press, so I have to schedule my DVR to record it now. Also, I was listening to this crunk song where a guy said he is going to give a smackdown to some other dude, because he hit on his girlfriend at a speed dating event.

Hey, it beats watching IEDs and RPGs on CNN, right?