Question: Is “f-bomb” actually in the dictionary?
Answer: Believe it or not, the new 11th edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, which appeared last week, included the word “f-bomb.” In all, the company picks about 100 new words for the 114-year-old dictionary’s annual update, gathering evidence of usage over several years in everything from media to the labels of beer bottles and boxes of frozen food.
So, what’s the definition of f-bomb? Well, everyone knows what an f-bomb is. But if you need to look it up, it’s described as a “lighthearted and printable euphemism.”
So who’s responsible for lobbing the f-bomb far and wide? Word spies at the Massachusetts company traced it back to 1988, in a Newsday story that had the now-dead Mets catcher Gary Carter talking about how he had given them up, along with other profanities. But the word didn’t really take off until the late ’90s, after coach Bobby Knight went heavy on the f-bombs during a locker room tirade. There was another huge spike after Dick Cheney dropped an f-bomb in the Senate in 2004, and then again in 2010 when Joe Biden did the same thing in the same place.
The dictionary experts feel these new words paint vivid pictures in your mind and show that English speakers can be very creative as they describe the world around them. What were some of the other words to make it into the 2012 edition?
aha moment – The first reference found by Merriam-Webster dates to 1939 in a psychology book. Its use was sporadic until the `90s, when it became Oprah Winfrey’s signature phrase, meaning a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition or comprehension.
earworm – Stephen King popularized this term, meaning a truly torturous tune you can’t get out of your head. Earworm isn’t actually a new word for Merriam-Webster, as it was previously listed as the description of a specific blight on ears of corn.
copernicium – This is a short-lived, artificially produced radioactive element and is the most recent addition to the Periodic Table of Elements. It was first created in a German lab in 1996 and named for the astronomer Copernicus.
The freshly added vocabulary also reflects a defining event of our time — the global financial crisis and the recession blues:
systemic risk – This is the risk that the failure of one financial institution could cause other interconnected institutions to fail and harm the economy as a whole.
underwater – The heartbreaking realization that you owe more on your mortgage than your property is worth.
toxic – This is related to an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market.
Of course, in our society there have to be some food-related new words, such as:
flexitarian – Traced to 1998, this is defined as one whose normally meatless diet occasionally includes meat or fish.
obesogenic – Dating to 1986 and more restricted to technical writing, this refers to an environment where something or some pattern is suspected of putting people at risk for obesity.
gastropub – Originating in England and coined in 1991, this concept of a restaurant in a pub reinvigorated both pub culture and British dining.
And there have to be some techie words to make the geeks among us happy:
cloud computing – This is the practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the Internet.
sexting – This is the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone. Remember Anthony Weiner, whose sexting scandal cost him his congressional seat?
So next time you want to use the perfect pick-up line, why don’t you try something like, “hey, babe, what’s a nice girl/guy like you doing in a gastropub like this? Just looking at you gave me that aha moment where I just knew you were a flexitarian who avoided those obesogenic foods – wanna do some sexting?” Just see how far that’ll get you – or how far that’ll get you thrown out the door of the club!