May 27, 2024

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…?” “New Words 2021”


“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “New Words” Chapter 72
By Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams

Well, it’s time again for Merriman-Webster’s newly added dictionary words—a whopping 455 of ‘em this time—one of my favorite yearly updates to watch for ever since I first read Chaucer’s Middle English* in college and it seemed like it was an entirely foreign language.  Here are some highlights of the new 455…

copypasta: data (such as a block of text) that has been copied and spread widely online. Copypasta can be a lighthearted meme or it can have a more serious intent, with a political or cultural message.

amirite: slang used in writing for “am I right” to represent or imitate the use of this phrase as a tag question in informal speech. An example: “English spelling is consistently inconsistent, amirite?”

super-spreader: an event or location at which a significant number of people contract the same communicable disease—often used before another noun (as in a “super-spreader event”).

whataboutism: the act or practice of responding to an accusation of wrongdoing by claiming that an offense committed by another is similar or worse also: the response itself. The synonymous term whataboutery is more common in British English.

fluffernutter: a sandwich made with peanut butter and marshmallow crème between two slices of white sandwich bread.

dad bod: a physique regarded as typical of an average father; especially: one that is slightly overweight and not extremely muscular.

fourth trimester: the three month period immediately following giving birth in which the mother typically recovers from childbirth and adjusts to caring for her infant; especially: the first three months of an infant’s life.

Ish: an adverb used to modify or moderate something previously stated or as a vague reply to a question.  If you thought your food was just OK and someone asks, “Did you enjoy your meal?” you could simply answer, “Ish.”

Dunning-Kruger effect:  the theory that a person who lacks skill or expertise also lacks the insight to accurately evaluate this deficit, resulting in a persistent inflation of estimated competence in self-assessments.  In other words, the Dunning-Kruger effect explains why your boss doesn’t realize how bad a boss he is.

FTW: an abbreviation for “for the win”—used especially to express approval or support. In social media, FTW is often used to acknowledge a clever or funny response to a question or meme. 

(Someone needs to inform them at Merriman-Webster that “FTW” has a much more sardonic common meaning than “for the win”.)

swole: the past tense of “swell” is now a slang word that means “very muscular.” “Keep working out if you want to get swole.”

zhuzh:  usually followed by “up,” “zhuzh” means to make (something) more lively and interesting, stylish, or appealing, as by a small change or addition.  It can also be a noun referring to that addition. “Try zhuzhing up your living room with some fresh flowers.”

information bubble:  another way of saying “media bubble,” which means “an environment in which one’s exposure to news, entertainment, social media, etc., represents only one ideological or cultural perspective and excludes or misrepresents other points of view.”  If you’ve carefully curated your Facebook feed to just be people you agree with, you might be in an information bubble.

janky: can mean “inferior in quality,” but also “untrustworthy; disreputable.” That is to say, do not get in that janky car with that janky man.

empty suit:  a slang term for “an executive, manager, or official regarded as ineffectual, incompetent, or lacking in leadership qualities such as creativity and empathy. “Your manager who can’t get anything done and then blames you until you break down in tears is an empty suit.”

And might I take the liberty to propose a few others of my own…?

mantrum:  when a grown man throws a tantrum unproportional to the situation presented.  “When Gary’s salad came mixed, instead of having the dressing on the side, he threw a full-on mantrum.”

Putz Magoo:  a mashup of Yiddish ineffectuality and cartoonish myopia, used to describe someone who is inexplicably wasting your time while also proving difficult to disengage from.

convopolizer:  a person that monopolizes a conversation in a public setting (say a party or a dinner) without offering much of interest to the discussion.  Often the least interesting person in the room.

clam shake:  simply, a wet handshake.  Frequently accentuated by general limpness accompanied by an oddly unsettling half-smile.

There you have it—2021-22’s new entries to our lexicon.  Make sure you use a few of them as our ever-evolving native tongue moves further and further away from your grandparents’ English.

*”As the term “Middle” English implies, the period in which Chaucer wrote was one of considerable flux and change, in which the Old English spoken by the Anglo-Saxons (a language that resembles Modern German more closely than it does Modern English) was transformed into Early Modern English—a term that emphasizes its position as the foundation of the language spoken throughout the world today.”

—The Open Access Companion to The Canterbury Tales