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More People Are Using the Word Jedi in Everyday Life

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From gaslight to d’oh, many common terms we use today have their roots in pop culture. Now, Merriam-Webster reports that the word Jedi, which originally referred to a member of the fictional knightly order in the Star Wars universe, is increasingly cropping up in contexts that have nothing to do with the franchise.

The dictionary cites a few examples of its usage from the past several years. In May 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported an increase in employers looking to hire a "Jedi," and in February 2016, The Salt Lake Tribune wrote that Liev Schreiber portrayed Boston Globe editor Martin Baron as a "newsroom Jedi" in the 2015 film Spotlight.

When both writers use the term Jedi, they aren’t talking about someone who has mastered the Force and knows their way around a light saber. In this context, a Jedi can refer to a person who is exceptionally skilled at anything.

According to Merriam-Webster, the phrase "Jedi mind trick" has also entered the lexicon, and it's used to talk about something a little different. When removed from its Star Wars origins, it means "coercing someone into a different state of mind," like in this excerpt from a February 2011 issue of Redbook.

"So how do you hold on to your Zen when your husband's in a bad mood? Leave him alone ... To get him to sync with you (and not you with him), just sit back and let your good vibes work a Jedi mind trick on him."

Star Wars isn’t the only major franchise to have an impact on language. The first Harry Potter book debuted decades after the premiere of A New Hope, and the word muggle already has an entry in Oxford Dictionaries. When used outside the context of the films and books, its meaning is the exact opposite of a Jedi: "A person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill.”

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'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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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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