Pop Culture Influencing Our Vocabulary

“I’ve just had an aha moment about crossing something off my bucket list. Instead of having that energy drink over at the gastropub and dropping F-bombs all night, we should head back to my man cave for a game changer to discuss cloud computing and listen to some mash-ups.”

It might seem like I am writing a story about the most boring group of people ever put onto paper, but that is not the case. (Whose bucket list includes discussing cloud computing while listening to mash-ups?)

Would you believe that those two sentences include nine of the words that Merriam-Webster has added to the 2012 update of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary? Can you pick out the nine words? I’ll give you a hint – F-bomb is one of them, clearly. As are cloud computing and mash-up.

Last week the organization released just a few of the words (or the updated definitions) added to its newest edition. Aha moment, bucket list, energy drink, gastropub, man cave and game changer – along with those others I’ve already identified – are just a few of the new ones.

Some of the other new words that have been released so far include other shocking, yet vivid words such as:

  • Sexting (yes, sexting) – “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone"
  • Earworm – “a song or melody that keeps repeating in one’s mind” (Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, anyone?)
  • Brain cramp – “an instance of temporary mental confusion resulting in an error or lapse of judgment”

Other words point to the Great Recession:

  • Underwater – “having, relating to, or being in a mortgage loan for which more is owed than the property securing the loan is worth”
  • Systemic risk – “the risk that the failure of one financial institution could cause other interconnected institutions to fail and harm the economy as a whole”
  • Toxic – “relating to or being an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market”

The word-lover in me is initially excited about these new provocative words added to the dictionary. The parent in me goes, “I don’t think I want my children discovering F-bombs and sexting.” The educated snob part of me exclaims, “This is a sham! We’re just lowering the quality of the English language another notch.”

But, it’s clear that – just as humans and technology evolve – the English language is ever-evolving. What do you think about these new additions?