We are an ever-evolving nation, to be sure.
Long gone are the days of slavery, women being banned from the voting booths and people openly smoking in McDonald’s. We adapt to the changes around us, open our eyes to the sins of humanity’s past failures and steadily grow as a compassionate civilization.
It would be naive to say we are where we would ultimately like to be at this point. For instance, we have a tendency to treat our veterans the same way small children do the wrapping paper on their Christmas presents. Oh, it’s shiny and exciting at first, but soon the paper and our veterans alike find themselves being tossed aside and treated like roadside trash. The “thank yous” and ceremonies are certainly nice, but jobs, housing, consistent medical attention, mental health care and...
But I digress.
What does evolve alongside the rest of us is English, our native tongue. What started as a language comprising roots of others is now a living, breathing organism that adapts to our changing world and new generations. There have been massive changes in technology over the past few decades, and those changes have brought new elements into our daily routines — hence, the need for new words.
Perhaps the most well-known “keeper of words” in the English language, particularly in this nation, is the Merriam-Webster dictionary. As a child, we always had one in the house, and it was perfect for straightening out wrinkled baseball cards and using as a little extra help when something was just a little bit out of reach. Of course, it also had more practical purposes, and was the go-to resource when someone asked my mother how to spell something and she said, “Look it up.”
Editor’s Note: At the time, we did not have Google attached to the mobile phones in our pockets. Our mobile phone was a phone booth on the corner and it did not have any search engines attached to it. In fact, it often times didn’t have a handset attached to it — just an old chewed-up piece of gum and a phone number for someone named Tina, who was apparently a very good time.
Regardless, as the English language continues to change, and Merriam-Webster is a guardian of said English language, it continues to change, as well. Earlier this week, the dictionary announced that it has grown by more than 1,700 entries. That’s a lot of new words.
• “Net neutrality” is something many of us have heard of over recent years as a source of some controversy, and now it has a space in Merriam-Webster. Basically, net neutrality means that Internet service providers must treat all Internet data as the same. That means, for example, your provider can not slow down or restrict the feed you receive from Netflix because your provider doubles as a cable television provider and competes with Netflix.
• Sticking with the tech world, “click fraud” has now made its way into our lexicon. This is when people take advantage of search engines’ pay-per-click models when a company pays a fee whenever someone clicks a link to that company’s website. I was relieved this didn’t have to do with me clicking the link on my column 931,284 times a week to boost its numbers.
I mean, if I did something like that. Which, obviously, I don’t.
• The “emoji” is something you are most likely familiar with, even if you don’t know its proper name. These are those little faces people attach to text messages, emails or social media comments to convey a particular emotion. What used to be a “:)” is now a full-blown smile, frown, nauseous face or anything else the user wants to portray. For the record, I do not “emoji.” I am basically emojiless, which should probably be a word by next year.
• “NSFW” is now in the pages of Merriam-Webster, and I think we’re all a better nation for that fact alone. Actually, I don’t, but I’m trying to generate excitement throughout the course of this column. This is an acronym for “Not Suitable For Work” and is often used in the header of an email or Internet post as a warning to the receiver not to open this file if you are sitting in your office as it probably contains a video or audio clip featuring pornography, screaming, torture or all of the above. Interestingly enough, I would classify our office on deadline days as NSFW.
• “WTF” kind of caught me off guard. Seriously, I was like, WTF? This is an abbreviation, and the first two letters stand for “What” and “The.” I’m going to just stop right there. It’s NSFW.