'Selfie,' 'Dubstep,' & 'Catfish' in Merriam Webster: 10 More Words That Should Make the Cut

INDIO, CA - APRIL 12: Musician Skrillex performs onstage during day 1 of the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Club on April 12, 2013 in Indio, California. (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Coachella)
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Since the Oxford English Dictonary chose "selfie" as its word of the year last November, we logophiles have been bracing ourselves for the day it would officially be inducted into the print volume and thus earn its status, alongside "twerk" and "phablet," as a codified piece of the English language. On Monday, however, Merriam Webster joined the coining fray with the release of its 2014 collegiate dictionary: Printed therein are 150 exciting new words for the modern age, including "selfie," alongside some less expected candidates, such as "catfish," "spoiler alert," "crowdsourcing," "fist pump," and "turducken" (yes, "turducken").

It's an impressive list to be sure — though perhaps just a bit disheartening for those verbal conservatives among us who bemoan portmanteaus, à la "tweep" (the unfortunate marriage of "Twitter" and "peeps"), or who would be apt to cringe at the encroachment of social media into our word bank (see: "unfriend," which joins the already minted "defriend," because clearly it's important that we have both). 

Still, reading over the list, one can't help but feel that some terms are missing. Because, well, if they're going to make "Yooper" a word, then why not add "Masshole," right? Below are 10 further (and more serious) suggestions, inspired by 10 of this year's newly official words. 

Let's dive in, shall we?


1. "Catfish" —> "D.E.N.N.I.S."

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When the documentary Catfish came out in 2010, I doubt the filmmakers had any idea it would morph into a successful MTV show, let alone an official dictionary entry. It seems the anecdote told by the film's subject's husband — about how catfish are put in among shipments of other fish, to keep them agile in stagnant tanks — will now officially and forevermore refer to the type of faux online relationship perpetuated therein.

So, I propose we also ratify another questionable method of human connection, while we're at it: The D.E.N.N.I.S. System, as coined and explained by Dennis of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Also, as with "catfish," it's a noun that can be used as a transitive verb (e.g., "Dee, you're so getting D.E.N.N.I.S.-ed"). Watch the clip above for a nuanced game plan.

2. "Spoiler Alert" —> "Mary Sue"

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When it comes to writing about pop culture, "spoiler alert" is certainly a useful phrase — especially if you're, say, recapping Game of Thrones — but I would argue that the term "Mary Sue" can be equally as useful, if not for warning your readers against ruined plot points, then at least for warning them against some insipid character construction. Originally used as a term for critiquing fan fiction (as first coined in Trekkie's Tale, a 1974 Star Trek fanfic parody), a Mary Sue is a character who is clearly an idealized representation of the author her/himself and whose role thus often ends in some kind of wish fulfillment — essentially like a porte-parole, but even more self-serving. However, the term can certainly be used outside the realms of fanfic; for example, while many people call Charles Bukowski's favorite protagonist Henry Chinaski "semi-autobiographical" or "an alter ego," I would call him a Mary Sue, hands down.


3. "Fangirl" —> "Brony"

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Because they're here to stay, and they're really excited about it, so the dictionary should be, too.


4. "Dubstep" —> "Drum and bass" / "Acid house" / "Witch house" / "Post-punk" / "Shoegaze" / "Grindcore" / literally anything else

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Because really, of all the genres in all the world, why dubstep? Not even its precursor, drum and bass?! Meanwhile, I can't help but notice that Merriam Webster does, though, have an entry for "trip-hop" — i.e., "electronic dance music usually based on a slow hip-hop beat and incorporating hypnotic synthesized and prerecorded sounds." Clearly, they need a new music editor.


5. "Baby Bump" —> "Hair plugs"

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If we're going to authorize a phrase denoting scrutiny we apply, tabloid-style, to women's midsections, then I suggest we add in an equivalent term that questions the male beauty standard. So, what is it gents: luscious locks or hair plugs?


6. "Steampunk" / "Freegan" —> "Crustpunk"

I'm all for recognizing the techno-Victorian, gear-and-spyglass-friendly fashions of "Steampunk," but especially given that Merriam Webster has also admitted the term "freegan" — i.e., "an activist who scavenges for free food (as in waste receptacles at stores and restaurants) as a means of reducing consumption of resources" — I feel like we should also give some love to the crustpunks. Because if you are in fact a "freegan," I'd say there's a 50/50 chance you also have pesudo-dreads, stick-and-pokes, skinny jeans that are more patches than cloth, etc.


7. "Auto-Tune" —> "Wah-wah"

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Yes, especially given the technical context of "Auto-Tune," I understand that there's such a things as a "Wah-wah pedal," but I'm looking to get an official definition for the universal, cartoonish noise of disappointment, sampled above. In the past, I've called this noise a "sad, farty trombone wail" — but why use four words when one onomatopoetic one will do?


8. "Fist pump" —> "Keg stand"

Believe it or not, the word "kegger" is already in Merriam Webster (defined, denotatively, as "a party featuring one or more kegs of beer"), as is "bro" (defined, slightly less pointedly, as "a friendly way of addressing a man or boy") — so, with "fist pump" now in the mix, "keg stand" really shouldn't be that far off, right? I'd even be willing to wait 'til 2016 for the subclassification of "laxbro," if necessary. 


9. "Motion Capture" —> "Dolly zoom"

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Okay, I'm totally exposing my inner film school nerd, but if we're going to put an official label on what I usually refer to as the "weirdo spandex ping pong ball suit technique," then we can totally normalize the technical term for what is sometimes called a "Vertigo effect" or a "Jaws effect" after its famous use in both films. Technically, a "dolly zoom" involves the camera operator wheeling the camera backward on a dolly track while zooming in, or vice versa — such that, if done at an even speed, the object at the center of the frame will stay essentially in place while everything around it warps, creating a, yes, vertigo-esque feeling of unease. See above for some famous examples.


10. "Brilliant" —> "Horrorshow"

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Of course, the word "brilliant" has long been an entry in Merriam Webster, but this year, a secondary definition was included to recognize its use as a British slang term, meaning, essentially, "excellent." Example: Imagine your favorite UK-accented individual saying, excitedly (or very sarcastically), "Oh, that's bloody brilliant!" (Note: Mine is Peter Capaldi from his role in In the Loop, and he is most definitely being sarcastic.)

So, in recognition of this new Britishism, we could grab next for some Cockney rhyming slang, sure — but I say why not hop over to Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange and poach some Nadsat, the Russified dialect spoken in his dystopian future? There, "excellent" has morphed into "horrorshow" — or "real horrorshow," if you're feeling especially effusive. 

Other Nadsat favorites I think Merriam Webster should strongly consider: "devotchka" (girl / the name of a band), "moloko" (milk / also the name of a band), "krovvy" (blood), "razdraz" (angry), "in the rookers of the millicents" (in the hands of the police), and "ultraviolence" (exactly what it sounds like).




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