Column: What’s in a (new) word?


Commentary by Curtis Honeycutt

The folks over at Merriam-Webster have been at it again, adding 455 new words to the dictionary. Remember, the folks at M-W essentially “report the news,” adding words that exist in the real world. Whether you like the words or not, they get added to the dictionary if people are using them. Here’s a roundup of some of the newest words.

Dad bod: I appreciate this one, as I have changed from being “in shape” to “a different shape” since having kids. In my mind, I still weigh the amount that is listed on my driver’s license.

Fluffernutter: A sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow creme. If a double-decker fluffernutter doesn’t sound delicious, you should check to see you have a pulse.

TBH and FTW: A number of initialisms got added in October, including these two from online and texting culture. “TBH” stands for “to be honest” while “FTW” stands for “for the win.”

Super-spreader: While I always thought this term referred to a king-size duvet cover on a twin-size bed, “super-spreader” refers to an event that leads to several new cases of coronavirus. Many coronavirus-related terms are in the new word list, including “long COVID,” “breakthrough medical” and “vaccine passport.”

Oobleck: An “oobleck” is a mixture of corn starch and water that behaves like a liquid or a solid, depending on whether it’s at rest or receiving pressure. The term gets its name from Dr. Seuss’ 1949 book “Bartholomew and the Oobleck.”

Whataboutism: In politics, this is when someone responds to a negative accusation by claiming the other person (or party) has done something similar or worse. In Pee-Wee Herman terms, this is akin to saying, “I know you are, but what am I?” Real mature.

Doorbell camera: While the words “doorbell” and “camera” both appeared on their own in the dictionary, they had never appeared together until now. A doorbell camera has a smart doorbell that is connected to an app or device in the home that allows residents to talk to visitors who show up on their porches.

Faux-hawk: A faux-hawk is the mock turtleneck of hairstyles, resembling a Mohawk without fully committing to it. To achieve a faux-hawk, a person pushes the hair on top of his head upward to the middle, usually using some kind of hair gel.

I love new words; they show that our language continues to adapt and change in interesting and creative ways. Just as you shouldn’t blame the meteorologist for bad weather, don’t blame lexicographers for adding words you don’t like to the dictionary.