WORD GAMES:  Our Ever-Changing Vocabulary by Hampton Rhodes

WORD GAMES: Our Ever-Changing Vocabulary

Where do these words come from? How do they get chosen? Or even more importantly – how can one keep up with all these changes enough to communicate coherently in today’s world?

It might be surprising, but according to babble.com, English is only the 3rd most common language in the world. It’s use is growing rapidly due to the onslaught (and dominance) of the computer age and the rapid acceptance of computers opening wider global communications. But as the new global language of the Internet, English is also ever-evolving with new words being used and adopted every single day.

In February of 2017, Merriam Webster added 1000 new words to their Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. Competitor dictionary.com announced in their March 2017 blog post that they have added another 300. Mentalfloss.com very recently published an article of their favorite 30 words from the Merriam Website list, while, not to be left out, cnn.com in April listed 25 of their favorite new words.

As dictionary.com so aptly puts it, many new words came straight from the headlines, from Black Lives Matter and Burkini to alt-right and clicktivism. Some words like 420 and Kush reflect broader acceptance of marijuana use and culture, as it’s becoming medically and recreationally legal across the country.

Art, food, and fashion also provided our lexicographers with a huge supply of new and interesting words. While everyone has an opinion on whether dabbing has seen its day in the spotlight, fans of cold brew or superfood can’t imagine their lives without it. Cat cafes are Asian trends that have won American hearts. Who doesn’t love a chance to play with (and maybe even adopt) a cute kitty while also enjoying a nice coffee and scone?

And with increasing interest in Korean music and TV across the US, it’s no surprise that K-pop is in this update. From Hollywood, the release of two new Star Wars movies within the past two years brought a resurgence of interest in the sci-fi franchise and its neologisms, like lightsaber. And men’s fashion trends like dad bod and man bun have had wide enough use and appeal that they, too, have made their way into this update.

If you’re looking for ways to express your excitement, dismay, or facial expressions resulting from this update, there are plenty of newly defined slang terms to help you out, including slay, smackdown, bitchface, and struggle bus.

With rapid communications brought about by the digital age, our vocabularies are changing rapidly as we find more useful, descriptive and contextual words to describe our world.

There are many tools available to better understand our new words, and these tools include subscribing to any of these previously mentioned and hyperlinked websites. But there are many others that can be even more specific to your needs or concerns.

Consult the recommended resources in the Information section or, if you are feeling lucky, search Google for the individual word or phrase you are looking for. Either way, build and use a stronger and more complete vocabulary. Call it contemporary communications, We think William Shakespeare would love it!


  • Netlingo.com offers the largest list of text and chat acronyms.
  • Webopedia.com offers the latest in the meanings of texting and chat room abbreviations.
  • Urbandictionary.com is a veritable cornucopia of street and slang terms.
  • Thefreedictionary.com has a live, real-time scrolling register of the words that people are looking up at this instant.
  • wordthink.com offers a word of the day that is insightful and persuasive.
  • nytimes.com offers a new vocabulary word used in a recent Times context and a quiz to test your understanding of that word.
  • Oxforddictionaries.com explores a different word every day to learn, enjoy and share.

Social Media Bonus:
Refinery29 offers a guide to Viral Words You Need to Know









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