The Monday Morning Quarterback

Dictionary Adds F-bombs, But I Swear My Suggestions are Better

William Safire, the late PR guy, etymologist and political columnist said that one of the best positioning statements he wrote was “When you’re through changing, you’re through.”

What Safire would make of the newest changes to the Merriam-Webster College Dictionary is anyone’s guess, though as a member of Richard Nixon’s White House team, he was certainly exposed to an “expletive deleted” or two. (And after that, Nixon was through!)

So it’s no surprise that the little language lover in me was excited to read the Associated Press report that Merriam-Webster has added a number of “colorful images” to this year’s edition of the esteemed dictionary, among them the popular “F-bomb” – a euphemism for unleashing the Anglo-Saxon epithet.

Others additions include “sexting,’’ “man cave,’’ “bucket list’’ and “game changer.”

The publisher said the list offers a revealing look at United States culture. The term “underwater,’’ for example, reflects the struggle of homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth; while “aha moment’’ places Oprah in the dictionary, thanks to one of her signature phrases. (Though I think they should have considered “John Traaaaa-vol-tah!”)

“Some of the new words this year provide colorful images,’’ said dictionary editor Peter Sokolowski. “They show that English speakers can be very creative as they describe the world around them.’’ Other new additions include “cloud computing,” “earworm,” “energy drink,” “gassed,” “gastropub,” “mash-up” and “systemic risk.” For those of us who don’t know what any of these new words mean, there’s no reason to wait to look them up.

Here’s a peek at the list of words:

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

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

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

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

earworm: a song or melody that keeps repeating in one’s mind (first used in 1802)

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

f-bomb: the word used metaphorically as a euphemism for the f-word (first used in 1988, probably by a client of mine)

game changer: a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way (first used in 1993, popularized by the race for the Presidency in 2008)

gassed: drunk, or drained of energy (first used in in 1919)

gastropub: a pub, bar, or tavern that offers meals of high quality (first used in 1996)

man cave: 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 (first used in 1992)

mash-up: something created by combining elements from two or more sources (first used in 1859)

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

systemic risk: 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 (first used in 1982)

underwater: lying, growing, worn, performed, or operating below the surface of the water (first used in 1627)

While the above list is very strong, I somehow don’t think it goes far enough. There are a handful more of new words that I think should have been included:

bank robbery: being robbed BY a bank through exorbitant fees and government bailouts (first used in late 2008)

billyjeans: when white guys awkwardly attempt Michael Jackson songs on karaoke night, no matter how much they’ve had to drink (first used in 2010)

Chersback: the exclamation made by your gay friend when he first learns that a new Cher album will be released this November (first used today)

faceebo: the much younger and usually Photoshopped pictures posted on online dating sites (first used 2010)

grassoline: the smell of freshly cut grass and gasoline emissions; the odor of lawn mowing (first used last Tuesday morning)

meternity: the length of time Jessica Simpson was pregnant (first used 2010-2012)

phonecrastinate: to put off answering the phone until caller ID displays the incoming name and number (first used 2001)

question marx: the desire to find out whatever became of the guy who sang Right Here Waiting For You (first used about a month after Right Here Waiting For You was released)

santa fey: overdoing the holidays year-round without responsibility or financial restraint. In September, Costco goes all Santa Fey. (first used in September 2012)

yardin: the small garden area in front of your condo (first coined in 1998)

– Art Reker, Account and Creative Executive