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Swole, Buzzy, Among New Words in Merriam-Webster Dictionary

by Mark Pratt .
Tuesday Apr 23, 2019
Egyptian body builder Moustafa Ismail lifts free weights during his daily workout in Milford, Mass.
Egyptian body builder Moustafa Ismail lifts free weights during his daily workout in Milford, Mass.   (Source:AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Get swole, prepare a bug-out bag, grab a go-cup and maybe you'll have a better chance of surviving the omnicide.

Translation: Hit the gym and bulk up, put a bunch of stuff essential for survival in an easy-to-carry bag, grab a drink for the road, and perhaps you'll live through a man-made disaster that could wipe out the human race.

Swole , bug-out bag , go-cup and omnicide are just a few of the 640 additions to Merriam-Webster's dictionary added Monday.

Deciding what gets included is a painstaking process involving the Springfield, Massachusetts-based company's roughly two dozen lexicographers, said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's editor at large.

They scan online versions of newspapers, magazines, academic journals, books and even movie and television scripts until they detect what he calls "a critical mass" of usage that warrants inclusion.

The words are added to the online dictionary first, before some are later added to print updates of the company's popular Collegiate Dictionary, which according to company spokeswoman Meghan Lunghi, has sold more than 50 million copies since 1898, making it the "best-selling hardcover book after the Bible."

"So many people use our website as their principal dictionary and we want it to be current," Sokolowski said. "We want to be as useful as possible."

The latest additions include mostly new words, or phrases, but also some old words with new meanings or applications.

Take unplug and snowflake, for example. Unplug means to literally tug an electric plug from a wall socket, but now, it also has a more metaphorical meaning, as in to disconnect from social media, he said.

And yes, a snowflake is still a beautiful ice crystal that floats from the sky during winter, but it now also has a usually disparaging meaning of "someone who is overly sensitive," according to Merriam-Webster's definition.

Some of the words have been around for decades, but are included in the dictionary because of increased usage.

Omnicide, which means "the destruction of all life," dates to the Cold War and was used in reference to the threat of nuclear annihilation, but lately it has been used to define the risk of other man-made disasters, primarily climate change.

Popular culture —movies, TV and sports — is a common source of new words, such as buzzy , an adjective that literally means creating a buzz, such as a "buzzy new movie."

And then there's EGOT , a noun that refers to an entertainer who has won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony. Audrey Hepburn, Marvin Hamlisch, Mel Brooks and Whoopi Goldberg are among the elite group .

Garbage time, those painful final minutes of a game when one team has an insurmountable lead and both teams empty their benches, has been around since 1960, but is on the latest list of new words.

With the rapid advance of science, many new words come from the fields of technology and medicine.

In the internet age when it's sometimes difficult to determine whether the vast amounts of information we're exposed to is accurate, the dictionary is a rock, Sokolowski said.

"We need the dictionary more than ever now that we have information flying at us from all directions," he said.

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