James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Mon Jun 30 17:15:55 UTC 2003

New Words Are Added to Dictionary

.c The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - A former dot-commer working a McJob was listening
to some headbangers while laying out the last of his dead presidents for
longnecks and some less than heart-healthy Frankenfood.

Confused? Consult the new edition of the Collegiate Dictionary from the folks
at Merriam-Webster. Pop culture remains a vibrant source of new words, with
such additions as ``headbanger'' (defined as both a hard rock musician and a
fan), ``dead presidents'' (paper currency), ``McJob'' (low paying and dead-end
work), ``Frankenfood'' (genetically engineered food) and ``longneck'' (beer
served in a bottle with a long neck).

Once a decade, Merriam-Webster updates its best-selling dictionary. The 11th
edition, available in bookstores Tuesday, includes 10,000 new words and more
than 100,000 new meanings and revisions among its 225,000 definitions.

Some of the new words have been a longtime getting the widespread
assimilation that merits a move from the unabridged dictionary to the Collegiate. The
citation file on the Yiddish exclamation ``oy,'' for example, dates back to the
immigrant waves of the 1890s. Others have zoomed into the language with the
speed of the Internet.

The Web has spun the biggest influence on the American language in the past
decade both with the new words it has spawned and the speed with which they
have been adopted by the general public, said John Morse, president and publisher
of Merriam-Webster.

``Typically, it takes 10 to 20 years before a word moves out of usage by
small groups into the larger populace,'' Morse said. But dot-commer - someone who
works for an online outfit - made the cut in a scant five years.

That's not the only trend, he said.

``In new words for diseases and cures, we are clearly seeing the effect of
aging on the baby boomers,'' he said.

``Comb-over'' (an attempt to cover a bald spot), ``macular degeneration'' (an
eye problem that primarily affects the elderly), and the adjective
``heart-healthy'' (good for the heart), are all new to the 11th edition. Along with them
have come a host of new words dealing with how we pay for medical services,
such as ``primary care.''

``It is a reflection of society's changes,'' Morse said.

Over the past decade, Americans have also taken increasingly to adopting
slang expressions - such as ``bludge'' (goof off) - from other English speaking
nations as far flung as New Zealand and Australia, he said.

``We are coming around full circle,'' Morse said, pointing out that Noah
Webster, America's first dictionary editor, had sought to establish a uniquely
American language, separate from British usage.

To glean new words and usages, Merriam-Webster's editors spend a large part
of their day reading newspapers, magazines and other popular publications.

Each new word and usage - along with a snippet from the publication showing
how it was used - goes into an electronic database as well as the
Springfield-based industry leader's massive card files. The files, started by Webster
himself, now contain more than 75 million words and their usage dating to 1790.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate is the best-selling hard-cover dictionary on the
market with more than 55 million copies sold since 1898, according to Arthur
Bicknell, a spokesman for Merriam-Webster.

The privately held company does not give out sales figures, Bicknell said.
However, he said, sales have set records for the past five years and the company
was expecting to set a new mark this year.

A decade is fairly typical for a complete overhaul of a collegiate
dictionary, but, of course, the newer companies haven't been at it as long as
Merriam-Webster. Webster's New World released the 4th edition of its college dictionary
in 1999, updating its 3rd edition published in 1988. The American Heritage
Dictionary updated its 1994 edition in 2001.

All of the dictionary publishers, including Merriam-Webster, issue smaller
annual updates of new words.

The computer age is also affecting how the 162-year-old publishing company is
marketing the new edition of the Collegiate. The new book costs $25.95 and
comes with a CD-ROM and a one-year subscription to a new Collegiate Web site.

For the past seven years, the 10th Collegiate has been available free on the
company's Web site, Morse said. But readers who want to tap into the Web to
read the 11th edition will have to subscribe, he said. The annual cost is $14.95
and also gives you online access to the Collegiate Thesaurus, Collegiate
Encyclopedia and Spanish-English Dictionary.

``We live in a hybrid world and people were telling us they didn't want the
dictionary in just one form,'' he said.

The book, at least for now, is still king in the dictionary business with the
bound volume getting the majority of use, he said.

``People love the serendipity of what is put in front of them when they page
through the book in search of a word,'' Morse said.

On the Net: Merriam-Webster:

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