Fwd: Dictionary inclusion of unworthy words ["phat"]

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Tue Sep 24 01:41:01 UTC 2002

On Mon, Sep 23, 2002 at 07:18:07PM -0400, Laurence Horn wrote:
> Anyone watching ABC World News Tonight will have noticed the last
> segment (promoted through the half hour) on why and how new words get
> into "Webster's Dictionary".  This was a segment shot in Springfield,
> at Merriam-Webster, and included comments by several lexicographers
> there on such items as "netiquette" and "booty(licious)".   The
> lexicographer who got the most air time was never identified by name,
> but did explain to the world that M-W's evidence clearly indicates
> that "phat" originated as an acronym of 'Pretty Hips And Thighs'.  Is
> this something we actually know, or even universally believe?  Is
> anyone here (from M-W or elsewhere) willing to divulge what this
> evidence is?

The online version of this piece can be found at
; lexicographers Tom Pitoniak and James Lowe are mentioned by name.
The etymology of _phat_ is not discussed in the online piece, and I'd
hope either that Larry completely misunderstood what the lexicographer
was saying, that the piece was edited to make the lexicographer seem
to be saying something completely the opposite of what he meant, or
that someone from M-W or elsewhere will indeed divulge what the
evidence is for what I think is a stunning claim.

I note in passing, in the familiar "Webster's Dictionary" vein, that
the two Webster's dictionaries featured in the photo are published by
Random House and Webster's New World, not by Merriam-Webster, the
actual subject of the piece. Groan.

Jesse Sheidlower

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