Embiggen Yourself!

zooey the chiweenie

Next time someone reminds you to use your words, you’ll have a few more to choose from. More than a few actually, because Merriam Webster has added a fresh batch of 850 officially sanctioned “real” English words to the dictionary.

As any linguist or casual wordie knows, language isn’t a static phenomenon. It’s always shifting and growing, as those who speak it daily vary usage patterns, adopt different speech styles and push once-obscure slang terms into the mainstream. That’s how nonsense you’ve criticized your hip children for saying sometimes ends up as legitimate and accepted parts of speech. This year’s new words, for example, include welp, Antifa and glamping.

Many of 2018’s dictionary arrivals are purely functional artifacts of modern life, such as subtweet and case-sensitive. If you’ve got one of those little Chihuahua-dachsund cross dogs, you’ll be happy to know that your pet is correctly referred to as a chiweenie. And if your speech tends to include discussions of digital currencies, mystified listeners will now be able to look up definitions for cryptocurrency, Bitcoin and initial coin offering.

Some of the newly added words are medical in nature (self-care, neoadjuvant and narcissistic personality disorder) while others relate to food: kombucha, tzatziki and harissa. But wait – what if you’ve been eating gyros with tzatziki sauce and growing your own SCOBY for years? Trash has been set ablaze on many occasions during the preceding decades, so why is dumpster fire only now being added? Surely these words aren’t really new!

That’s true, but as of March 2018, they are recognized as English words with a standardized definition. In other words, the masses have caught up with you to the point that the terms are in wide enough circulation to merit dictionary inclusion. Consider yourself a linguistic and cultural trendsetter.

At the same time, less frequently uttered words drop out of standard use and eventually become obsolete or their meanings change. The definition of unicorn, for instance, has been updated to include its current use describing a (real) startup business valued at a billion dollars or more. Bandwidth now refers to mental or emotional capacity as often it does wavelength or frequency.

Whichever of the new words you choose to add to your personal lexicon, one thing is certain: It’s time to embiggen your vocabulary! Nope, you can’t roll your eyes any more. According to the experts, embiggen is now a perfectly cromulent word – just as some of us have always claimed.

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Sarah Warlick

Sarah Warlick founded Proof Positive Content to provide professional service firms with high-quality content that resonates with their target audiences. Sarah's writing appears in books, on the websites of over a dozen Top 100 Accounting Firms and in Accounting Today, Forbes and other leading publications, but usually under another name. Ghostwriters rarely get the glory - their clients do!