Pumpkin spice, sweater weather, and new words

By Joe Diorio

November 8, 2021 – Time to sit my dad bod at the computer keyboard and share the news about the new words – 455 of them, to be precise – the folks at Merriam-Webster have added to the dictionary. I need to be quick about it since the bit rot rate of our attention span is faster than a teraflop nowadays.

In case you didn’t figure it out, I used three of the new words in the opening paragraph. Yep, dad bod is now an informal and accepted term. It refers to the physique of a father and (this is the part that some – including me – may take umbrage at) especially one that is slightly overweight and not extremely muscular.

The other terms I used are new words, too; bit rot is the tendency for digital information to degrade or become unusable over time, and teraflop is a unit of measure for the calculating speed of a computer equal to one trillion. They and 452 of their comrades joined Merriam-Webster late last month.

The author at home in Nashville, Tennessee. Seats are from Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. Dad bod is, in part, from Five Guys Cheeseburgers.

Now before all the owners of dad bods hike up their pants below their collective guts and indignantly say, “whadda talking about? I’ve been using the term ‘dad bod’ for years” I say you are right. And that’s why dad bod is in the dictionary. Lexicographers chronicle the use of language as it evolves. Yes, there was a meeting somewhere where the agreement was that dad bod should be added to the dictionary. But before that happened there had to be ample evidence that the term had become pervasive in common speech.

Consider that fan favorite, the word irregardless, had its first recorded usage in 1795, but it was not entered into the dictionary until 1912. The word was in increasingly common use during those 117 years before it was – perhaps reluctantly – admitted to the club.

On a related note, frequent usage is what led the Oxford English Dictionary to name “vax” as the 2021 word of the year. Referring to a vaccine or someone having been vaccinated, editors of the dictionary say it appear 72 times more frequently in September 2021 than it did at the same time last year. And let’s avoid any political hot buttons, amirite? That by the way, is another new word Merriam-Webster recognized.

Words fall out of favor, too. Brabble has had its teraflop moment of fame, although one could say it’s still useful. It means to argue stubbornly about something. Methinks there will be a few brabbles at dinner this Thanksgiving.

Subject verb agreements are hard …

… but sometimes it can be even harder figuring out what the subject is. Case in point: A television commercial for Ring doorbell cameras and home alarms shows a scenario where a doorbell camera owner thwarted a break-in at his domicile by activating his home alarm just by using a smart phone app. “With Ring, I prevented a break-in on my phone,” the actor/spokesperson said. Sorry, spokesperson, but hackers can still get to your phone. You used to phone to prevent a break-in. That isn’t as sexy sounding, I know, but it is accurate.

Illicit vs illegal

NBC affiliate WGRZ in Buffalo, New York had this headline recently, “State says cannabis ‘gifting’ is illicit, but who polices the transactions?” The question of transaction monitoring remains unanswered, but the headline did elicit (See what I did there?) a question from readers about the use of the word illicit versus illegal.

Both words are adjectives (they also can be nouns). Illicit as an adjective means not approved by law, but not invalid, whereas illegal means contrary to or forbidden by law (especially criminal law). So that box of CBD gummies you swear your auntie would love may or may not be the wrong gift to give.

Let’s write carefully out there people.

Cover(s) Me! promotion

If you have purchased A Few Words About Words then please send me a photo of you holding the cover like the one above from a friend in Hawaii. I call this my “Cover(s) Me!” promotion. Let’s see where the readers are located.

Joe Diorio is a writer living in Nashville, Tennessee. His first book, A Few Words About Words, is available now.

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