Blog Excerpts

New Words for NOAD

The New Oxford American Dictionary has released its third edition, and in the time-honored tradition of lexicographical publicity, a sampling of the dictionary's new words and phrases has been making the rounds. Some have griped that the list "reads like a list of Twitter trending topics" that is designed "to bait bloggers, who really are obsessed with the Interweb." Is the list too preoccupied with evanescent online culture? You be the judge!

New Words

BFF n. (pl. BFFs) informal a girl's best friend: my BFF’s boyfriend is cheating on her.
– ORIGIN 1996: from the initial letters of best friend forever.

big media n. [treated as sing. or pl.] the main means of mass communication (i.e., television, radio, and the press), as opposed to blogs or other personal websites.

bromance n. informal a close but nonsexual relationship between two men.
– ORIGIN early 21st cent.: blend of brother and romance.

carbon credit n. a permit that allows a country or organization to produce a certain amount of carbon emissions and that can be traded if the full allowance is not used.

carbon offsetting n. the counteracting of carbon dioxide emissions with an equivalent reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

cloud computing n. the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.

credit crunch n. a sudden sharp reduction in the availability of money or credit from banks and other lenders: the beleaguered company has become the latest victim of the credit crunch.

defriend v. another term for unfriend.

eggcorn n. a word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being substituted for one that sounds very similar or identical (e.g., tow the line instead of toe the line).
– ORIGIN early 21st cent.: with reference to a misinterpretation of acorn.

exit strategy n. a preplanned means of extricating oneself from a situation that is likely to become difficult or unpleasant.

gal pal n. informal a female friend.

green audit n. an assessment of a business in terms of its impact on the environment.

green-collar adj. denoting or relating to employment concerned with products and services designed to improve the quality of the environment: green-collar jobs.
– ORIGIN on the pattern of white-collar and blue-collar.

hashtag n. (on social networking websites such as Twitter) a hash or pound sign (#) used to identify a particular keyword or phrase in a posting.

hater n. a person who greatly dislikes a specified person or thing: a man hater | he’s not a hater of modern music.
informal a negative or critical person: she found it difficult to cope with the haters.

hockey mom n. informal a mother who devotes a great deal of time and effort to supporting her children’s participation in ice hockey.

homeshoring n. the practice of transferring employment that was previously carried out in a company’s office or factory to employees’ homes.
– ORIGIN early 21st cent.: on the pattern of offshoring.

homesourcing n. another term for homeshoring.
– ORIGIN early 21st cent.: on the pattern of outsourcing (see outsource).

hypermiling n. the practice of making adjustments to a vehicle or using driving techniques that will maximize the vehicle’s fuel economy.
– DERIVATIVES hypermiler n.

Interweb n. humorous the Internet.

LBD n. (pl. LBDs) informal little black dress: you can’t go wrong with an LBD for premières or parties.
– ORIGIN abbreviation.

lipstick lesbian n. informal a lesbian who favors a glamorous, traditionally feminine style.

LMAO abbr. vulgar slang laughing my ass off.

megachurch n. a church with an unusually large congregation, typically one preaching a conservative or evangelical form of Christianity.

parkour (also parcour) n. the activity or sport of running through an area, typically in an urban environment, using acrobatic techniques to negotiate obstacles.
– ORIGIN early 21st cent.: French, alteration of parcours 'route, course.'

paywall n. (on a website) an arrangement whereby access is restricted to users who have paid to subscribe to the site.

quantitative easing n. Finance the introduction of new money into the money supply by a central bank.

social media n. [treated as sing. or pl.] websites and applications used for social networking.

social networking n. the use of dedicated websites and applications to communicate informally with other users, or to find people with similar interests to oneself.

staycation n. informal a vacation spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.
– ORIGIN early 21st cent.: blend of stay1 and vacation.

steampunk n. a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

tag cloud n. a visual depiction of the word content of a website, or of user-generated tags attached to online content, typically using color and font size to represent the prominence or frequency of the words or tags depicted.

tramp stamp n. informal a tattoo on a woman’s lower back.

truthiness n. informal the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true.
– ORIGIN early 19th cent. (in the sense 'truthfulness'): coined in the modern sense by US humorist Stephen Colbert (1964–).

TTYL abbr. informal talk to you later: Anyway, gotta run now! TTYL.

unfriend v. [with obj.] informal remove (someone) from a list of friends or contacts on a social networking site: she broke up with her boyfriend, but she hasn’t unfriended him.

vuvuzela n. S. African a long horn blown by fans at soccer matches.
– ORIGIN perhaps from Zulu.

wardrobe malfunction n. informal, humorous an instance of a person accidentally exposing an intimate part of their body as a result of an article of clothing slipping out of position.

waterboarding n. an interrogation technique simulating the experience of drowning, in which a person is strapped, face up, to a board that slopes downward at the head, while large quantities of water are poured over the face into the breathing passages.

webisode n. an episode, esp. from a television series, or short promotional film made for viewing online.
– ORIGIN 1990s: blend of Web and episode.

zombie bank n. informal a financial institution that is insolvent but that continues to operate through government support.

New Phrases

be all that informal be very attractive or good: he thinks he’s all that—yeah, God’s gift.

my bad informal used to acknowledge responsibility for a mistake: Sorry about the confusion. It's my bad.

the new black a color that is currently so popular that it rivals the traditional status of black as the most reliably fashionable color: brown is the new black this season.

like herding cats informal used to refer to a difficult or impossible task, typically an attempt to organize a group of people: controlling the members of this expedition is like herding cats.

cop to accept or admit to: there are a lot of people who don't cop to their past.

what's not to like? informal used as a rhetorical expression of approval or satisfaction: cleaner air, cooler temperatures, and mountain views—what’s not to like?

share a moment informal experience a joint sensation of heightened emotion: Alan and Barbara shared a moment yesterday after the memorial service.

talk the talk informal speak fluently or convincingly about something or in a way intended to please or impress others: we may not look like true rock jocks yet, but we talk the talk.

Old Words, New Senses

arc (in a novel, play, or movie) the development or resolution of the narrative or principal theme.

channel emulate or seem to be inspired by: Meg Ryan plays Avery as if she’s channeling Nicole Kidman.

cougar informal an older woman seeking a sexual relationship with a younger man.

flyover informal, derogatory denoting central regions of the US regarded as less significant than the East or West coasts: the flyover states.

friend noun – a contact associated with a social networking website.
verb – add (someone) to a list of contacts associated with a social networking website.

hate (hate on) informal express strong dislike for; criticize or abuse: I can’t hate on them for trying something new.

heart like very much; love: I totally heart this song.

made man a man who has been formally inducted as a full member of the Mafia.

meme an image, video, phrase, etc., that is passed electronically from one Internet user to another.

nimrod informal an inept person.

own informal utterly defeat or humiliate: yeah right, she totally owned you, man.

pimp informal make (something) more showy or impressive.

poke (on the social networking site Facebook) attract the attention of (another member of the site) by using the 'poke' facility.

riff perform a monologue or spoken improvisation on a particular subject: he also riffs on racism and the economy.

rock informal wear (a garment) or affect (an attitude or style), esp. in a confident or flamboyant way: she was rocking a clingy little leopard-skin number.

short Stock Exchange sell (stocks or other securities or commodities) in advance of acquiring them, with the aim of making a profit when the price falls.

soften (of a market, currency, or commodity) fall in value: the share price has softened recently.

straightedge (esp. among fans of hardcore punk music) having an ascetic or abstinent lifestyle: he’s so straightedge that he won’t even take Tylenol when he has a headache.

tweet - a posting made on the social networking site Twitter: he started posting 'tweets' via his cell phone to let his parents know he was safe.
- make a posting on the social networking site Twitter.

viral an image, video, advertisement, etc., that is circulated rapidly on the Internet: the rise of virals in online marketing.

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Comments from our users:

Thursday September 23rd 2010, 2:03 AM
Comment by: Kenneth W. (London United Kingdom)
I won't be wasting my money on NOAD. Kenneth W.
Thursday September 23rd 2010, 2:57 AM
Comment by: Antonia D. (Sydney Australia)
With the way things go, I would not be surprised if, in a not too distant future, I would come across a novel having as its first line

“Her BFF’s LBD has a tramp stamp”

and as its last line


and I would be equally unsurprised if such a novel would be the recipient of some literary prize, as a result of its lovely use of language in accordance with some judges, all of them disenchanted by the way writers such as Proust or Dostoyevsky made use of language in their novels, finding them guilty of not having a modern cast of mind and as such unable to know better.
Thursday September 23rd 2010, 8:30 AM
Comment by: Federico E. (Camuy, PR)
Wait, I don't see why this list bothers some people. The NOAD is not telling literary-minded authors what to write. It's just recording some words that have gained currency, and kept it long enough to merit a place in the dictionary. Isn't that what dictionaries are supposed to do? If I come across a sentence like "Her BFF came to the party in a LBD, but because of wardrobe malfunction, everyone could see she has a tramp stamp," even if I don't plan to write it myself, I'm glad the NOAD has taken pains to show what the mystifying sentence meant. So thanks, NOAD.
Thursday September 23rd 2010, 10:18 AM
Comment by: B. Penry (Guilford, CT)
Dear 'Anonymous' - a few thoughts in response, if I may...

I don't believe any of us commenting would disagree that the function of a dictionary is the ongoing compilation and definition of words & phrases. The crux of the matter is on what basis these should be admitted. Should it be because they simply, newly (or more accurately) fleetingly exist, or should it be as many believe (myself included): that such words & phrases have indisputably entered into the lexicon of mainstream use and acceptance, not just within a segment of the online community.

"Literary-minded authors" as you put it are hardly the issue; it's what the rest of the world thinks as a result of questionable terms winding up in The Oxford, regardless of which edition - that concerns, amuses, annoys, etc., if not scares the hell out of some of us.

Some of the words & phrases that have newly been enshrined in The NOAD are so ephemeral as to be so much dust in this afternoon's wind. Example: my 15 year-old son waxes eloquently on behalf of the term, 'Fan Boy' - meaning an ardent enthusiast of Apple products/services (whether male or female) - at least for the moment. And THAT is precisely my point: why then, isn't 'FAN Boy' in The NOAD? Answer: NOT because of an inadequate or shoddy editorial process - but rather, because some (dare I borrow from The NOAD) 'nimrod' editor(s) chose to include a tiny fraction of the countless terms floating out there - both in cyberspace and casual, face-to-face conversations - before such terms can be vetted by the only thing that truly matters: time.
Thursday September 23rd 2010, 11:24 AM
Comment by: Federico E. (Camuy, PR)
Dear B. Penry: Thanks for an eloquent response. I see two issues here, though.

It would seem that some of your objections would be answered if all of the new terms floating out there would join the dictionary. Then, we couldn't say that NOAD is being capricious by accepting this word rather than that. (By the way, I don't know if fanboy is not in the NOAD, it's just not part of the list VT shared. The word is, though, in the Oxford universe of dictionaries, here).

However, your other objection, that the test of time should determine what words become part of the dictionary, is trickier. All dictionaries have some waiting period to see if words congeal or fade. But how much time? 10 years? 50? If someone had opted for 50 years back in 1980, words such as Internet, Google, and laptops wouldn't make the cut. And I'm sure you and I both agree that in the world we live in we need a dictionary that has those sorts of words.

So, as I said, it's tricky. I would say, define ahead, dictionaries! I hope they define as many as they can, so that those definitions are at hand when I bump into a new word, phrase, or sense that I hadn't seen before. If those words wilt in a few years, then the next edition of the NOAD can safely pluck them and discard them. While they're current, though, I prefer that a reliable dictionary like the NOAD offers a definition, instead of having to grope through Urban Dictionary.

PS: My phrase about literary-minded writers was just a response to someone's comment about a novel taking up some of the words picked up by the NOAD.
Thursday September 23rd 2010, 12:16 PM
Comment by: B. Penry (Guilford, CT)
Thanks, Anonymous, for your eloquent response, as well - ah, the plot thickens... seriously, all good points,
I readily concede. Which brings me to one of the proverbial, all-time 'great' Questions of the Universe: "just who IS 'Anonymous'?" If you care to reveal such closely held state secrets, drop me an email at my primary (first listed) Website, which you can find by clicking on my link (above). It's great to serendipitously engage in some intelligent banter in my (all too infrequent) spare moments. Alas, it's time to drag myself back to more mundane matters - 'Caio 4 Now' - as my text-frenzied cohorts would say.
Thursday September 23rd 2010, 9:46 PM
Comment by: Antonia D. (Sydney Australia)
If new words enter the dictionary, inevitably others would be left out (something I have noticed when I could not find the word I was looking for in the new dictionary, but I found it in the old one). If we compare a dictionary published say in 1970 with one published in 2000 we would notice that many words of the old dictionary have been replaced by new ones. Therefore someone born in the year 2000 would more likely consult in the year 2010 the latest published dictionary and if the word the 10 year old is after happens to be a word that was left out in the latest edition, then the child might be puzzled as to why his1 teachers or parents used a word not to be found in the dictionary, while words his teachers and parents never use (such as TTYL2) are to be found in the dictionary. It seems to me that dictionaries should champion proper English, and I do not think that I am alone in thinking in this way3, rather than popular English. A ‘Dictionary of rare words’ exists4, as much as specialized dictionaries exist (for architectural terms, engineering terms, medical terms, law terms, etc.) as it is obvious that one volume dictionary cannot list all the words, and in the same vein, I cannot see why, instead of slowly replacing proper English with popular English, another dictionary containing the popular terms could not be published as a separate dictionary5, similar to those mentioned above, under the title, say “Oxford dictionary of popular words used during the year 2010” (or between the years 2000 and 2010).

1 ‘his’ stands for ‘his or her’, ‘his or her’ being a very politically correct expression, but not a pleasantly sounding one

2 Dear Anonymous: One cannot compare words such as ‘internet’, which is a necessary word to describe a new technology, with TTYL which says something about its user and about those who include it in a dictionary which is supposed to list proper English words. As I said, popular terms can form a separate dictionary for anyone curious to find out how the uneducated express themselves.

3 Here is an example: “As Fiske illustrates in his book, dictionaries are not what they used to be. Prominent dictionaries, including the vaunted Merriam Webster, have increasingly resorted to including nonstandard English, i.e. improper English, in their texts, all in the name of recording English as it is used, rather than how it should be used. Fiske attacks this concept of "descriptivist" as inexcusable. Although I admit that English does evolve, I am firmly in Fiske's camp — dictionaries should champion proper English, not popular English”, which is an extract from a review of ‘The Dictionary of Disagreeable English’ to be found on

4 A dictionary of rare and lost words can be found not only as a printed book (I have one and is very useful, as the words listed in this dictionary are not part of any other dictionary) but also online

5 Such a dictionary already exists online, where many of the popular terms are explained:
Friday September 24th 2010, 1:51 PM
Comment by: Federico E. (Camuy, PR)
Antonia: Thanks for a detailed response. Your argument stands on two premises. First, dictionaries must delete older words in order to include new ones. Second, since dictionaries have to choose, let them choose something called proper English (commonly called Standard Written English). The first premise isn't true, and the second is highly debatable (and acutely debated).

Premise number one isn't true in practice or in principle. Everyone here knows about one dictionary that just doesn't delete new words, not even if a million words enter in the next edition. That's the Oxford English Dictionary. So, in practice, there is at least one dictionary that adds words without deleting others. That means we cannot possibly say, "If new words enter the dictionary, inevitably others would be left out."

Now, that premise isn't true in principle, either. Someone might say that no-deletion dictionaries like the OED have to reach a limit at some point. But that's where technology comes into play. Byte space, unlike shelf space, hasn't been shown to fill up. So, in principle, a dictionary like the OED could go on adding words ad infinitum--that is, while we have things like the Internet, and if those things were to go in the future, then it would be a kind of future in which these discussions wouldn't be relevant.

Because premise number 2 depended on premise number 1, this may have been the end of the argument. But let me just highlight how contentious the definition of SWE (or "Proper English") is. David Foster Wallace captured the debates quite well in his review of Garner's Modern American Usage, and I highly recommend it (you can find the full text here). Vocabula, spearheaded by Fiske, is an excellent example of what we could call linguistic conservatives (Garner calls the opposite team "linguistic liberals"). Argumentatively, that's a fair position. I respect those people who defend it. But I hold with those who favor linguistic innovation, especially in lexicography.

This isn't about enshrining nonce uses in respected dictionaries. But dictionaries are there to help us understand the language around us: popular technical uses, standard medical terms, literary figures, slang. I love that they take the trouble to tell me what TTYL means. Can you imagine the contempt with which something like "OK" must have been received by linguistic conservatives at the time? I think it's great that dictionaries have okayed that word, and many others that may have caused frowns when they came out. That's what usage dictionaries are for, to defend their own sense of linguistic correctness--or propriety. Instead, i hope unabridged dictionaries keep growing with whatever new words or uses become common.
Friday September 24th 2010, 5:50 PM
Comment by: Antonia D. (Sydney Australia)
Dear Anonymous
In answer to your first premise, our discussion is not related to the Oxford English Dictionary which has 20 volumes, but to The New Oxford American Dictionary. Its second edition (2005) has 2096 pages and as we learn from its first review “Words, of course, have been added and deleted”

so my first premise is correct.

And if one has in mind students, they are more likely to buy and use one volume rather than 20 volumes.

Secondly, I am not against linguistic innovation, but TTYL (which I suppose is used in texting) is not a linguistic innovation, but what I would rather call linguistic degradation. Can you hear any musical, rhythmic beauty of the English language in TTYL or OK?

Dictionaries are there to help us understand that the language the way is sometimes spoken does not have the beauty, meaning, etc. it should have, and this is where the dictionary comes in having as its duty to keep the language at its highest level. I’ll make an analogy here. Imagine that because many people steal, to mention only one crime (that is, through analogy, many people use TTYL) lawyers and the laws (dictionaries) would relax and would consider that stealing needs no punishment, because, after all there are so many people stealing. Would you think that not relaxing the laws against stealing and other crimes would be conservative? And here I rest my case for the second premise.
Friday September 24th 2010, 10:05 PM
Comment by: Federico E. (Camuy, PR)
Dear Antonia: Thanks again for your response. I think we have reached a point in which we won't come to an agreement, but have at least pared things down to the essence of our disagreement. The discussion, both with you and with B. Penry, has been very interesting, but I'm afraid prolonging it may make the VT community weary. Please allow me to say something about each premise, however.

First, our discussion began with the NOAD, but it reached beyond that specific dictionary and into the realm of dictionaries in general. When you said, "If new words enter the dictionary, inevitably others would be left out," your use of "the dictionary" didn't point just to the NOAD, but to a generic dictionary, as your second sentence made it clear ("If we compare a dictionary published say in 1970 with one published in 2000 we would notice that many words of the old dictionary have been replaced by new ones"). Hence, it was legitimate to speak of the OED and of the concept of no-deletion dictionaries. Thus, the first premise didn't hold.

In fact, since you specifically mentioned dictionaries for students in your last post, my comments on the practice and principle of no-deletion dictionaries are relevant: students can easily buy a dictionary that grows through constant accretion, and which they can access through an e-reader, iPad, etc. We're back to byte space, and the myriad possibilities it offers in terms of entry storage. So, again, premise number one doesn't hold.

With regard to premise number two, this time you mentioned musicality, beauty, rhythm, and other similar concepts. There are works geared specifically toward that, like The Describer's Dictionary or a book called Word Painting. Writing and speaking beautifully is a fine goal. As a fiction writer, I'm especially appreciative of it.

But that's not what I look for in regular dictionaries. I want words in a dictionary, and not words filtered through a lexicographer's sense of euphony. I want handy but ugly words in there, like discombobulate. Again, usage dictionaries bang tables at words they dislike, and that's fine for a usage dictionary, but keep those table-banging words in regular dictionaries. Furthermore, literature and books on writing craft will help us steer toward more beautiful language--but that's simply not the role of regular dictionaries. Keep those dictionaries current, well-fed, and helpful. Maybe that's just me.

Finally, the crime analogy is extremely problematic. To compare, say, the effect of a hideous word with the effect of rape or theft is highly disputable. Of course I wouldn't want lawmakers to ignore crimes that become widespread just because they became widespread. But I wouldn't want a sociologist reporting on crime to abstain from mentioning a type of offense that has become common. A sociologist should gather as much information as possible and present it as clearly as possible. If pressed into an analogy with crime (as I have been in this case), it's with that kind of sociological analysis of crime that I would compare lexicography. But people often want their dictionaries to taser out unwanted words and lock them away a few stories below Standard Written English. I don't happen to be one of those people. That's the linguistic liberal in me, I guess.
Saturday September 25th 2010, 8:01 AM
Comment by: Antonia D. (Sydney Australia)
Dear Anonymous
It seems to me that we discuss in parallel. You either genuinely do not understand what I am talking about or you pretend not to understand. Whatever the case might be I find our conversation unfruitful, and as such, at least concerning this subject, I propose to end it here, as I find it futile.
Sunday September 26th 2010, 2:57 PM
Comment by: Janet K. (Encinal, TX)
Anonymous's fears of wearying the VT community are unfounded. This has been a fascinating example of how even the most articulate among us can fail to make ourselves understood, and just how difficult it is to communicate in any format. Imagine! Arguing (however considerately) over the nature of dictionaries and the power and hierarchy, euphonious or otherwise, of words old and new. As Bill Clinton might have said: I feel your sense of futility. But take heart Antonia, it's only words.

"Taser out unwanted words" there's a combo right up there with "Dude, you don't HAVE a Quran." that gets my vote for most surprising use of unlikely words found together in a single sentence this year. Bring it on! How is this NOT euphonious?

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New words from the Oxford Dictionary of English (not to be confused with other Oxford dictionaries!).
Does the Oxford English Dictionary have a vault of failed words?
Dictionaries from Oxford and Merriam-Webster added many new words in 2008.