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.

Quick hits from college, Instagram, and TV news

By Joe Diorio

Like wine, our writing improves with time. The following statements were written by undergraduate college students and shared with me by an adjunct instructor of public relations. The writers need more time in the barrel. The editorial comments are by me, not the instructor. The name of the school is withheld for very obvious reasons.

An average woman weighs 140 pounds. Most models are 98 percent thinner than the average American woman. So, a model weighs 2.9 pounds? Are we talking person or Barbie doll?

Beaches are getting smaller as the sea continues to move closer to the mainland. And the oceans, I guess, are getting bigger, too.

Tobacco users form an unnecessary mess the university can no longer tolerate. Those cig butts won’t biodegrade by themselves.

The International Whaling Commission will continue to promote unethical aspects of scientific whaling to the conservation community. Next on their agenda is burning more fossil fuels and killing off a few endangered species.

Many people have different definitions of Public Relations, that is mostly because people interpret Public Relations differently. Yes. Yes, they do.

Much more harm comes from bullying than positive. True. A knuckle sandwich at lunch is not part of a balanced diet.

Even though cellphone usage isn’t the leading cause of accidents due to distracted driving it is the most common. Wait, what?

From Instagram

Some quick hits from my Instagram account, appropriately titled @a_few_words_about_words:

To hyphen or not to hyphen, that’s a good question. Which is correct? UAW President Ray Curry is that union’s former:

A.    secretary treasurer

B.    secretary-treasurer

The Associated Press Stylebook says to use the hyphenated version when it is a title, and to capitalize it only if it precedes a name.

Speaking of capitalization, the AP Stylebook also advises following factoid: Capitalize the first word after a colon only if it is the beginning of a complete sentence. (See what I did there?)

To spell out or not to spell out. Do you spell out UNICEF on the first reference? No, the name should appear in all caps. It stands for United Nations Children’s Fund. The words “International” and “Emergency” were once a part of the name but were long ago dropped … from the name, not the mission.

True or false quiz. If a quote extends over two paragraphs, you do not need to use a quote mark at the end of the first paragraph. True! Don’t use a close quote mark at the end of the first paragraph unless the quoted material does not constitute a full sentence, as in the following:

“I am shocked and horrified by the slaying.

“I am so horrified that I will ask for the death penalty.”


He said he was “shocked and horrified by the slaying.”

“I am so horrified that I’m asking for the death penalty.”

Lastly (for now) is there a difference between “use” and “utilize”? Yes, in the simplest terms, “use” explains that something is put into action, as in “I use my pen to write.” Conversely, “utilize” comes into play when something goes beyond its original intended use, as in, “I utilize my pen as a bookmark.” Don’t replace “use” with “utilize” and think you look smart. Instead use words like “apply,” “employ,” or “manage.”

TV News … enough said

I know producing a television news broadcast is way harder than any of us realize. But does the grammar used on television have to be so, so … ah, you get the idea.

On September 28 a local affiliate reported positive news: A story about a U.S. Marine carrying groceries for over one mile in the rain for a woman who was confined to a scooter. “The act of a U.S. Marine has gone viral,” the anchor said. No, it did not. The PHOTO of the U.S. Marine carrying this woman’s groceries went viral. If his act went viral, then we would see scores of people carrying groceries for a disabled individual. A nice thought, to be sure, but that’s not what happened.

Let’s write carefully out there, people.

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

A Few Words With Joe Diorio and Marti Mattia

Who else can talk about #words all day? My friend and fellow author Marti Mattia and I did just that. Here is a piece of our talk where we discuss the genesis of my book, “A Few Words About Words. A common-sense look at writing and grammar.” Marti is a poet and author herself.

You can order the book at your local bookstore or online through retailers like Amazon. Here’s a link to it on Amazon.