Language naturally evolves with time, and new words are always being created — if it didn’t, we’d still be speaking Old English. Thanks to the internet and social media, the process of creating new words has been fast tracked in some ways; sometimes, it's even difficult to keep up with all the new words and abbreviations that are being used. Merriam-Webster, the American print and online dictionary that has been around since 1828, regularly tracks up-and-coming words to add to their dictionary. On Mar. 5, Merriam-Webster announced they would be adding 850 words to the digital English dictionary — including “dumpster fire” and “mansplain.”
According to the Boston Globe, Merriam-Webster.com’s associate editor Emily Brewster, said in a statement, “These new words have been added to the dictionary because they have become established members of the English language, and are terms people are likely to encounter.”
Additionally, the Merriam-Webster.com further explained their decision to expand their online dictionary in a Monday statement on their site, writing, “The language doesn't take a vacation, and neither does the dictionary. The words we use are constantly changing in big ways and small, and we're here to record those changes. Each word has taken its own path in its own time to become part of our language—to be used frequently enough by some in order to be placed in a reference for all.”
Though the terms “mansplain” and “dumpster fire” are widely used on social media, they have long been considered slang. Now, probably to the heartbreak of many grammar snobs, these once-strictly internet terms are officially words. According to Merriam-Webster.com, the official definition of “mansplain” is “to explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic.” As for the term “dumpster fire,” Merriam-Webster.com officially defines it is “an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence: disaster.” So, go ahead and use these terms on — and off — the internet.
In addition to “mansplain” and “dumpster fire,” Merriam-Webster.com added a bunch of other slang words popularized online that you probably already use on the reg — including the terms “life hack,” “hate watch,” and “subtweet.” Moreover, Merriam-Webster.com added words that have been made common terms through texting, like “welp,” and even “hmm.” Other words included in the big announcement were “cryptocurrency” due to rise of Bitcoin, “kombucha,” "wordie" (yes, sort of like foodie), and my personal favorite, “self-care.”
Though it may seem like Merriam-Webster added a whole heck of a lot of new words at once, the company routinely adds hundreds of new words every year to keep up with the ever-changing way we communicate. As USA Today reported, Merriam-Webster.com added 250 new words just this past September; some of the terms included “froyo” (aka, the best dessert ever), “sriracha,” and “pregame.”
Merriam-Webster's decision to add a word to their online dictionary is not flippant in the slightest, and the word in consideration must meet some pretty strict criteria. In an FAQ blog post on the site, the editors of the dictionary explain that “tracking word usage” is the main factor used to determine what terms are added. The editors track usage by reading all kinds (yes, all) electronic and paper publications — research that can take hours upon hours. The words are then stored as citations, and are required to be cited a large amount of times before officially being added to the dictionary. The process is anything but simple.
TBH, it’s pretty validating to know that the word “mansplain” can no longer be written off as feminist lingo, and that "dumpster fire" is officially an acceptable term to use IRL. Language is always changing, and it's cool AF to see Merriam-Webster recognize the ways social media has changed the way we communicate.