Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Can I have a word with you?

From the Publisher's Desk
By: Keith Whitson

Have you ever had an aha moment? It is one of those times when something dawns on you as if the light switch has been turned on and suddenly it is so obvious.
I am sure there have been aha moments since the beginning of time. In fact, Adam must have looked at Eve after they ate the forbidden fruit and said “Oh, now I understand why we weren’t supposed to eat that.”
Even though there have always been such moments, it wasn’t until this year that we could actually define it as “aha.” This year “aha moment” got included in the new 2012 edition of “Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.”
It amazes me that as long as time has been going on, we continue to have the need for new words to describe our lifestyles and our latest technology. I haven’t even gotten through the Webster’s edition from my college days and I imagine several hundred words have been added since then.
The new words are a far cry from the terms first included in the original 1806 “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language,” compiled by Noah Webster.
After Webster died in 1843, two brothers, Charles and George Merriam purchased rights to the dictionary and began revising the edition. Multiple changes and words have been added in more than a century and some have even resulted in debate.
I work with words all the time and somewhat take them for granted. It is amazing that letters form words, that form sentences, that paint a picture for someone else to become involved with our written thoughts.
Somewhere, every word must have a birth. Someone was the first to express a sound that they called a word and defined its meaning. From that, many people have to hear it and recognize its usage before it ever is a candidate for inclusion in Webster’s.
Following are some of the other lucky winners to make history in this year’s dictionary.
• underwater – lying, growing, worn, performed, or operating below the surface of the water
I don’t know about you, but I think that word must have missed the boat many times. Ever since we have had water, someone has been under it from time to time.
• 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
I am going to remember this one and try to throw it around in conversation. I am bound to look like a financial guru by using it.
• bucket list – a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying
I am going to need a mighty big bucket for my list. In fact, one of the things I better put in my bucket is to live long enough to complete my list. Is this what they mean by “kicking the bucket?” I saw where this word actually originated in 2006.
• sexting – the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone
Well I can see why this didn’t make the original dictionary in 1806. It used to be TV was the downfall of the family. Now I think it is cell phones. Usually they aren’t even used for talking but rather texting and sometimes explicit photos attached. There is very little left to the imagination anymore.
I saw a mother fussing at her son in Walmart last week when finishing his text was obviously more important than answering her question. As they passed on, another shopper looked at me and shook his head. We both agreed she would probably stand a better chance of getting a response if she sent it in text form.
• copernicium – a short-lived artificially produced radioactive element that has 112 protons
Well that could very well be in Unicoi County. However, anything with the term radioactive will not die out in debate.
• energy drink – a usually carbonated beverage that typically contains caffeine and other ingredients (as taurine and ginseng) intended to increase the drinker’s energy
I wish I could be lucky enough to look at the obvious and make money from it. Who would ever have thought we would pay the high price we do for bottled water? Now someone adds caffeine to flavored water and sells it for energy.
• gassed – slang: drunk
I guess I better think twice before saying “I went ahead and gassed up before coming to work.”
• 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
I imagine that the early cavemen understood the need for such a retreat. They obviously did some serious thinking and communicating through wall drawings. It didn’t take them a dictionary filled with thousands of words to know the importance of having a man cave.
Of course, every man cave of today needs a large screen TV so we can watch Vanna turn the letters. “Pat, I would like to buy a vowel. I believe I will solve the puzzle now.”