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30 of the New Words Added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

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The team over at Merriam-Webster is responsible for keeping a vigilant eye on shifting language trends. They’ve made some pretty bold moves recently (like declaring that a hot dog is a sandwich). Now, they’re adding over 1000 new words to the dictionary, some of which are sure to raise a few eyebrows.

As you might expect, the latest batch features plenty of internet-bred slang terms. If you’ve ever been at a loss when someone tells you they just finished binge-watching their favorite NSFW mumblecore films, Merriam-Webster can now help you translate. The new entries also include words related to fields like sports, medicine, and politics. For a sample of the most recent additions to the dictionary, refer to the listicle below:

1. AIRBALL (V.)

To completely miss the basket, rim, and backboard with a shot: to shoot an air ball.

2. BINGE-WATCH (V.)

To watch many or all episodes of (a TV series) in rapid succession.

3. BOKEH (N.)

The blurred quality or effect seen in the out-of-focus portion of a photograph taken with a narrow depth of field.

4. CONLANG (N.)

An invented language.

5. ELDERFLOWER (N.)

The flower of an elderberry (such as Sambucus nigra) used especially in making wines, liqueurs, and teas.

6. FACE-PALM (V.)

To cover one's face with the hand as an expression of embarrassment.

7. FAST FASHION (N.)

An approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.

8. FIRST WORLD PROBLEM (N.)

A usually minor or trivial problem or annoyance experienced by people in relatively affluent or privileged circumstances especially as contrasted with problems of greater social significance facing people in poor and underdeveloped parts of the world.

9. FOOD INSECURE (ADJ.)

Unable to consistently access or afford adequate food.

10. GHOST (V.)

To abruptly cut off all contact with (someone, such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.

11. GINGER (N.)

A person with red hair.

12. HUMBLEBRAG (V.)

To make a seemingly modest, self-critical, or casual statement or reference that is meant to draw attention to one's admirable or impressive qualities or achievements.

13. LISTICLE (N.)

An article consisting of a series of items presented as a list.

14. MICROAGGRESSION (N.)

A comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).

15. MICROBIOME (N.) 

A community of microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses) that inhabit a particular environment and especially the collection of microorganisms living in or on the human body.

16. MUMBLECORE (N.)

A genre of narrative film focusing primarily on the intimate lives of young characters and featuring scenes of ample dialogue and minimal action.

17. NSFW (ABBR.)

Not safe for work; not suitable for work—used to warn someone that a website, email attachment, etc., is not suitable for viewing at most places of employment.

18. PAREIDOLIA (N.)

The tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern.

19. PHOTOBOMB (V.)

To move into the frame of a photograph as it is being taken as a joke or prank.

20. PING (N.)

A signal sent from one computer to another across a network for usually diagnostic purposes (as to determine network speed or the status of the target computer).

21. PROSOPAGNOSIA (N.)

An inability to recognize faces.

22. SAFE SPACE (N.)

A place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.

23. SEUSSIAN (ADJ.)

Of, relating to, or suggestive of the works of Dr. Seuss.

24. SIDE-EYE (N.)

A sidelong glance or gaze especially when expressing scorn, suspicion, disapproval, or veiled curiosity.

25. TRAIN WRECK (N.)

An utter disaster or mess: a disastrous calamity or source of trouble.

26. TRUTHER (N.)

One who believes that the truth about an important subject or event is being concealed from the public by a powerful conspiracy.

27. WAYBACK (N.)

The area in the back of a van, station wagon, or SUV.

28. WEAK SAUCE (N.)

Something inferior, ineffective, or unimpressive: something weak.

29. WOO-WOO (ADJ.)

Dubiously or outlandishly mystical, supernatural, or unscientific.

30. YOWZA (INTERJ.)

Used to express surprise or amazement.

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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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