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How New Words Become Mainstream

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If you used the words jeggings, muggle, or binge-watch in a sentence 30 years ago, you would have likely been met with stares of confusion. But today these words are common enough to hold spots in the Oxford English Dictionary. Such lingo is a sign that English, as well as any other modern language, is constantly evolving. But the path a word takes to enter the general lexicon isn’t always a straightforward one.

In the video below, TED-Ed lays out how some new words become part of our everyday speech while others fade into obscurity. Some words used by English speakers are borrowed from other languages, like mosquito (Spanish), avatar (Sanskrit), and prairie (French). Other “new” words are actually old ones that have developed different meanings over time. Nice, for example, used to only mean silly, foolish, or ignorant, and meat was used as blanket term to describe any solid food given to livestock.

The internet alone is responsible for a whole new section of our vocabulary, but even the words most exclusive to the web aren’t always original. For instance, the word meme was first used by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene.

To learn more about the true origins of the words we use on a regular basis, check out the full story from TED-Ed below.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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Words
'Froyo,' 'Troll,' and 'Sriracha' Added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
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Looking for the right word to describe the time you spend drinking before heading out to a party, or a faster way to say “frozen yogurt?" Merriam-Webster is here to help. The 189-year-old English vocabulary giant has just added 250 new words and definitions to their online dictionary, including pregame and froyo.

New words come and go quickly, and it’s Merriam-Webster’s job to keep tabs on the terms that have staying power. “As always, the expansion of the dictionary mirrors the expansion of the language, and reaches into all the various cubbies and corners of the lexicon,” they wrote in their announcement.

Froyo is just one of the recent additions to come from the culinary world. Bibimbap, a Korean rice dish; choux pastry, a type of dough; and sriracha, a Thai chili sauce that’s been around for decades but has just recently exploded in the U.S., are now all listed on Merriam-Webster's website.

Of course, the internet was once again a major contributor to this most recent batch of words. Some new terms, like ransomware (“malware that requires the victim to pay a ransom to access encrypted files”) come from the tech world, while words like troll ("to harass, criticize, or antagonize [someone] especially by provocatively disparaging or mocking public statements, postings, or acts”) were born on social media. Then there’s the Internet of Things, a concept that shifts the web off our phones and computers and into our appliances.

Hive mind, dog whistle, and working memory are just a few of the new entries to receive the Merriam-Webster stamp of approval. To learn more about how some words make it into the dictionary while others get left out, check these behind-the-scenes secrets of dictionary editors.

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Live Smarter
Why You Should Drop 'Kind of' and 'Sort of' From Your Vocabulary
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How many times have you heard something like this before: “I sort of agree” or “I just kind of wish you had asked me before making that decision.” People tend to couch phrases in qualifying language to protect someone else’s feelings or to protect themselves when they say something that’s potentially inaccurate or makes them feel vulnerable. But no matter how safe and comfortable those words make you feel, they only end up confusing your listeners and hurting your reputation.

Fast Company includes “kind of” and “sort of” on their list of expressions that make you sound like you have no idea what you’re talking about. When you preface a sentence with those words, you’re immediately letting your audience know that they shouldn’t fully trust whatever comes next. Not only does this discredit you as a leader or a confidant, it obscures any feedback or request you were hoping to convey.

“Sort of” and “kind of” aren’t the only crutches insecure speakers love to lean on. Other offenders on Fast Company’s list include “maybe,” “possibly,” “potentially,” and “I’m not sure, but … ”

If qualifiers make poor security blankets, what strategies should speakers use to communicate with confidence? One way is to replace filler words and passive past-tense language with strong action verbs. That way your message will come across clearly and better persuade whomever you're speaking to. If the thought of talking this way terrifies you, try some preemptive confidence exercises before going into your next big meeting or confronting a friend or partner. Working out, practicing power poses, and even checking your own Facebook wall are all ways you can boost your self-image in a pinch.

[h/t Fast Company]

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