Collingswood woman helps define the words of our time

As an associate editor at Merriam Webster, Kory Stamper reads a lot of stuff. “It’s really a good mix of everything,” she said. “Both high-brow literary novels and trade journals, and what people would consider to be more low-brow.”

Stamper, who lives in Collingswood, N.J., notes all the new words she reads in a database and keeps a count of how often they come up. Then she and other editors discuss and debate what should be added to the dictionary. Here’s this year’s 15 most popular new words (definitions here):

 

Aha moment
Bucket list
Cloud computing
Copernicium
Earworm
Energy drink
F-bomb
Game changer
Gassed
Gastropub
Man cave
Mash-up
Sexting
Systemic risk
Underwater

Some may cringe when grammatically incorrect or slangy terms get added, but Stamper says they’re missing the point. “The role of the dictionary is to present the language as it is used, not to be the gatekeeper of proper English. People who get into Lexicography generally love words even the words that are unlovable or unloved.” An example: Stamper’s a fan of “F-bomb.” She says its playful and evocative. But it’s not her most-loved. “My favorite entry in the dictionary is a word I’ve never actually heard used before. It’s ‘gardyloo,'” said Stamper. “Used in Edinburgh as a warning cry when it was customary to throw slops from the windows into the streets.” She says it could have a place in modern times on hot summer days — serving as a warning to unsuspecting pedestrians who walk under leaky window air-conditioning units.

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