Digital/Online Marketing Communications Strategy

Merriam-Webster Adds A Trove of Technology Terms

By on May 22, 2014 in commentary, social media with 0 Comments

Cover of Merriam-Webster Collegiate DictionaryWhen Merriam-Webster announced the addition of 150 new words to its Collegiate Dictionary earlier this week, major social networking sites lit up like fireworks.

The hashtag #MW2014NewWords got a good workout on Twitter.

How apropos. After all, among the 150 new additions to the dictionary are the terms social networking, hashtag and tweep.

New meanings for old words

A press release announcing the 2014 update to America’s best-selling dictionary explains that these latest entries “reflect the growing influence technology is having on human endeavor, especially social networking, once done mostly in person.”

Oh, that’s right, way back when, networking, in the social sense, used to mean you went somewhere and met someone, or a bunch or people, face to face. You passed around business cards and shook a lot of hands.

Don’t let your tweeps pull a catfish on you

Networking events, happy hours especially, remain a staple of business meet and greets. However, in the current common vernacular, when you’re talking about social networking, you’re likely referring to online platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter — the latter being a place where you can converse tweep to tweep, which Merriam-Webster defines as “a person who uses the Twitter online message service to send and receive tweets.”

Now, when you’re social networking you want to watch out for catfish. Not the type that swim in water, but rather, folks who fit this new M-W definition: “a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes.”

In the event you’re wondering, the context for this version of the word originates from the indie film Catfish and subsequent TV show of the same name.

Tapping into the technology zeitgeist

Other terms added to Merriam-Webster, include big data, crowdfunding, digital divide, e-waste, gamification, paywall, selfie and unfriend.

Peter Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large for Merriam-Webster, notes that, “So many of these new words show the impact of online connectivity to our lives and livelihoods. Tweep, selfie, and hashtag refer to the ways we communicate and share as individuals. Words like crowdfunding, gamification, and big data show that the Internet has changed business in profound ways.”

The coming years will do doubt offer a bevy of new technology-inspired words for Merriam-Webster. The impact of online connectivity will only become more pervasive, what with the ranks of digital natives swelling and the internet of things growing. As we synch ever more apps to the cloud and do more binge watching, thanks to more programs being streamed, terms tied to technology will increasingly enter our daily language. Perhaps each of those boldfaced words will warrant entry into the M-W dictionary in the not too distant future.

More deets on new words for 2014

Of course, plenty more than just techie terms are freshly inducted into the dictionary. Other new entries include baby bump, fangirl, fracking, freegan, steampunk and spoiler alert.

Looking at the list kinda makes you wonder how they pick what words to add each year.

The simple answer is usage. The people with the power to decide what gets in are looking for new words that are widely used on a sustained basis (e.g. tweep), or new usages of existing words (e.g. social networking). Of course, in this context the term “new” is relative, but in any case, they’re at least newish in the scheme of the whole history of the English lexicon.

For more deets on how the official words are selected, Guardian News and Media has a good article about it: Merriam-Webster Adds New Words.

FYI, the word deets, short for details, has not yet achieved enough usage to merit the vaunted status of being an entry in Merriam-Webster.

Your two cents

What do you think of the 2014 additions to Merriam-Webster dictionary? Comments welcome.

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About the Author

About the Author: Deni Kasrel is seasoned (slightly spicy) specialist in digital/online communications. .

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