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From the Publisher’s Desk – Alphabet soup is short on letters

By Keith Whitson

Do you suffer from nomophobia? Maybe you do and you just never knew it until now. Nomophobia is fear of being without access to a working cell phone. This year Merriam-Webster dictionary made it an official entry.

Isn’t it strange that we have come to a point in life to experience such a fear? Isn’t it even stranger the fear is common  enough that we had to make up a word for the condition?

The dictionary is not on my list of books to complete. I am certainly not ready to take a final exam on the material, but with each year I get farther and farther behind on staying up to date with current communication.

Each year the famous dictionary we consider our official guideline to communication, keeps updating to suffice our current trend in speech. Evidently we can’t be happy with a half million words already listed. Those don’t adequately cover what we are trying to say, so we have to invent more.

The company’s website puts it this way, “Each day most Merriam-Webster editors devote an hour or two to reading a cross section of published material, including books, newspapers, magazines, and electronic publications. The editors scour the texts in search of new words, new usages of existing words, variant spellings, and inflected forms–in short, anything that might help in deciding if a word belongs in the dictionary, understanding what it means, and determining typical usage.”

This list of words goes through much more scrutiny before their dictionary debut, but that is the start of becoming an official dictionary word. I am just amazed that there are actual jobs where people look for new words in use everyday.

When I was in grammar school we had spelling class. I always considered myself pretty good at it. I could spell with the best of my age. Sadly, I am not so sure of myself anymore.

Modern technology has taken over. I start a text message and auto correct cleans up my mistakes. While typing this column, the program is underlining words in red that appear to be misspelled.

No matter how good you are at spelling, the English language is not an easy one to learn. You can cry a tear with your eye when you tear your shirt. There is break and steak, but bleak and streak. We have cloven and oven and how and low. How about the words tomb, bomb and comb? Shouldn’t they all sound the similar? Let’s look at doll and roll and then some and home.

Why are shoes, goes and does pronounced differently on the end? There is finger, linger, singer and ginger. Oops, what went wrong with ginger?

Finally, which rhymes with enough — though, through, plough, dough, or cough? Don’t even get me started on to, too and two.

We make it even worse on the younger generations with common names spelled “cute.” You could have Lisa, Leza, Leesa, Leesuh, Lesa and many more.

There has to be a logical explanation on how so many varied spellings are achieved and how spellings for a new word are decided. My guess is a bowl of alphabet soup. I can see it now. Merriam-Webster employees have a topic and need a new word to represent it. They stir around in the soup bowl, pulling out letters until another employee yells “Stop!”.The letters removed become the new word.

I think it is partly a plot to keep foreign countries from  stealing our information. Every time they get close to finishing the Merriam-Webster dictionary, we add more words. Maybe we should really consider some of our current spellings, pronunciations and definitions before adding those words to the dictionary.

Have you been shopping for some athleisure lately? It is casual clothing designed to be worn both for exercising and for general use. I can eliminate that word just as I have exercising.

Yard work made me dipsogenic Saturday. No, I wasn’t dipping tobacco or drinking cognac. It does, however, mean producing a thirst.

Trigger warning, revenge porn is now listed in the dictionary. First off, trigger warning is a statement cautioning that content may be disturbing or upsetting. Revenge porn is sexually explicit images of a person posted online without the person’s consent, especially as a form of revenge or harassment. Whoever thought times would bring us to need this word?

You may be glad to know writing a letter has become easier. You can now address the letter to a gender-neutral person by using Mx. instead of Mr., Mrs. or Ms.

Noah Webster might be disappointed to learn that most folks today don’t have to buy a dictionary to survive. We are spoiled by Google and auto correct. You don’t even have to know how to spell a word. Just take a stab at it and the search engine will offer a suggestion with “Did you mean…?.

This is all TMI (too much information), which is also a new dictionary entry.