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‘Mom Jeans’ and ‘Ghosting’ Among New Terms Added to Dictionary.com

Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Taylor Hill/Getty Images

You searched, and they noticed: The internet’s most popular English-language dictionary is adding more than 300 new words and terms, including “mom jeans,” “lumbersexual,” and “manspread.” The latest additions were selected on the basis of cultural relevance and search volume, which means that somewhere out there, people are apparently confused about the term “athleisure.”

Dictionary.com CEO Liz McMillan says her site helps users stay current and fluent in a fast-evolving language. “Many of the new word additions are tied to larger cultural conversations, from current political events to slang,” she said in a press statement.

And indeed, some trends are clear in the dictionary’s newest class, with clusters of terms relating to fashion, gender identity, media, civil rights, and public health, as well as the strange ways technology has changed us. (“Al desko,” we have just learned, is the slang term for staying at your desk to work while eating lunch. Sigh.)

Logophiles and copy editors, take note: Unlike the Associated Press, the online dictionary includes an accent in the word "Pokémon."

Here’s a mini-sampler of some of the website’s diverse, and occasionally dismaying, new offerings:

athleisure: a style of clothing inspired by athletic apparel but also worn as casual, everyday wear.

butthurt: mental distress or irritation caused by an overreaction to a perceived personal slight.

deso: designated driver.

free-range parenting: a style of child rearing in which parents allow their children to move about without constant adult supervision, aimed at instilling independence and self-reliance.

ghosting: the practice of suddenly ending all contact with a person without explanation, especially in a romantic relationship.

health goth: a fitness enthusiast who is part of the goth subculture.

hot take: a superficially researched and hastily written journalistic piece, online post, etc. that presents opinions as facts and is often moralistic.

intersectionality: the theory that the overlap of various social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual.

lamestream: noting or relating to traditional print and broadcast media, when regarded as lacking the fairness, creativity, etc., of independent online news sources.

long-form: noting or relating to types of print or visual media content characterized by in-depth, lengthy narratives.

lumbersexual: a man whose style of dress and appearance is reminiscent of the ruggedly masculine stereotype of the lumberjack.

manspread: to sit with one's legs far apart, taking up too much space on a seat shared with other people.

mom jeans: unstylish women’s jeans.

NBD: acronym for no big deal.

panromantic: noting or relating to a person who is romantically attracted to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.

Pokémon: a media franchise including video games, animated television series, movies, card games, etc. that depict a fictional class of pet monsters and their trainers.

presstitute: a journalist or media source whose news coverage is considered to be inappropriately influenced by business interests, political motives, etc.

totes: totally.

train wreck: a person who has experienced a personal failure, disaster, etc.

ze: occasionally used with a singular indefinite pronoun or singular noun antecedent in place of the definite masculine he or the definite feminine she.

Zika virus: a chiefly mosquito-borne virus of the genus Flavivirus that causes Zika, a mild illness.

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Big Questions
Where Does the Phrase '… And the Horse You Rode In On' Come From?
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Horses may no longer be the dominant form of transportation in the U.S., but the legacy of our horseback-riding history lives on in language. When telling people off, we still use the phrase “... and the horse you rode in on.” These days, it’s rare for anyone you're telling to go screw themselves to actually be an equestrian, so where did “and the horse you rode in on” come from, anyway?

Well, let’s start with the basics. The phrase is, essentially, an intensifier, one typically appended to the phrase “F*** you.” As the public radio show "A Way With Words" puts it, it’s usually aimed at “someone who’s full of himself and unwelcome to boot.” As co-host and lexicographer Grant Barrett explains, “instead of just insulting you, they want to insult your whole circumstance.”

The phrase can be traced back to at least the 1950s, but it may be even older than that, since, as Barrett notes, plenty of crude language didn’t make it into print in the early 20th century. He suggests that it could have been in wide use even prior to World War II.

In 1998, William Safire of The New York Times tracked down several novels that employed the term, including The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972) and No Bugles, No Drums (1976). The literary editor of the latter book, Michael Seidman, told Safire that he heard the term growing up in the Bronx just after the Korean War, leading the journalist to peg the origin of the phrase to at least the late 1950s.

The phrase has had some pretty die-hard fans over the years, too. Donald Regan, who was Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan from 1981 through 1984, worked it into his official Treasury Department portrait. You can see a title along the spine of a book in the background of the painting. It reads: “And the Horse You Rode In On,” apparently one of Regan’s favorite sayings. (The book in the painting didn't refer to a real book, but there have since been a few published that bear similar names, like Clinton strategist James Carville’s book …and the Horse He Rode In On: The People V. Kenneth Starr and Dakota McFadzean’s 2013 book of comics Other Stories And the Horse You Rode In On.)

It seems that even in a world where almost no one rides in on a horse, insulting a man’s steed is a timeless burn.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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language
How to Say Merry Christmas in 26 Different Languages
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“Merry Christmas” is a special greeting in English, since it’s the only occasion we say “merry” instead of “happy.” How do other languages spread yuletide cheer? Ampersand Travel asked people all over the world to send in videos of themselves wishing people a “Merry Christmas” in their own language, and while the audio quality is not first-rate, it’s a fun holiday-themed language lesson.

Feel free to surprise your friends and family this year with your new repertoire of foreign-language greetings.

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