To say that the internet has played a massive role in the shaping of global society is a bit of an understatement, really, but one area that often gets overlooked is its influence on language. Thanks to teh interwebz (bear with me), we’re all exposed to words, phrases and spellings from languages and subcultures we might never have access to otherwise, and this has opened up a whole world of linguistic joy (and loathing). Today, Merriam-Webster has added more than 840 new entries to its dictionary, a step in the continuous process of recording our ever-expanding language.
Some, predictably, as fairly divisive. Everyone’s got that rando Instagram friend that’s too fond of the word adorbs, or who loves a bit of avo with their marg (margarita) at brunch. And we’ve all seen the memes lamenting the plight of the hangry.
Technology obviously plays a driving role in new language, which is why predictive, haptics, biohacking and fintech have now joined the fold. Netflix is bingeable, Wikipedia is a time suck and Reddit is usually TL;DR. Phone bugging out? Time to force quit. Societal issues have an influence, too. For the first time, food bank, tent city and self-harm have entered the dictionary, as has Generation Z, bougie and Latinx (a gender neutral alternative to Latina and Latino).
As Merriam-Webster notes, every word moves at its own pace — there’s no average speed for a word’s acceptance into language, and therefore the dictionary. “For each reader, some of the new words inevitably seem already familiar, but others will be encountered for the first time in an announcement like this — which probably means we’re doing it just about right.”