The Washington Post

Merriam-Webster drops the F-bomb

This is from a film called “The World’s Most Beautiful Dictionary” but to me this just looks like a dictionary with a great personality. (Japan Information and Cultural Center, Embassy of Japan)

“Oh no,” Diatribe mutters to Glut. “Look at them, dear.”

F-Bomb and Life Coach are blasting loud neologism-rich music as they unpack their large family van.

Glut shudders a little as they produce several lawn ornaments and a framed picture of their home in the old country of Internet.

“Diatribe,” Glut hisses, “DO something.”

Diatribe adjusts the collar of his polo. “What do you want me to do, honey? Look, Frenemy and Shawarma have only been here since 2009, and see how well they’ve settled in!”

“That was different,” Glut murmurs. “I mean, F-bomb, for Pete’s sake!”

“Now, dear,” Diatribe says, “F-bomb has close relatives who have been here since the very beginning.”

It’s always like this.

Today brought word that F-Bomb, Life Coach, Sexting and a whole array of 97 other new words had made their way into the guarded confines of the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary. And the usual alarms are being rung. All the old words that can trace their lineage back to the Anglo Saxons or the pen of Shakespeare cluster in fear behind their screen doors as the Newers unpack. “There goes the neighborhood,” they murmur, as e-Reader comes careeing around the corner in a flashy new car, with Geocaching on his arm.

“We’ll have to move to the Oxford English Dictionary,” Glut says insistently to Diatribe, shaking her head. “They know how to keep out the undesirable element.”

“I don’t see what’s so undesirable about Sexting or Obesogenic,” Diatribe says. He is just being difficult at this point. “Besides the last time we turned around the OED was welcoming OMG, LOL, and <3, which doesn’t even contain letters.”

“I hate you sometimes,” Glut murmurs. “Look, I have nothing against Sexting. But not here. We used to have rules to keep these upstarts out.”

“These arrivals are the only thing keeping us off the street! They keep English vibrant and alive! Do you know how few people still buy dictionaries?” Diatribe barks, suddenly. “Do you? Do you want to have this discussion? We should be thankful we still have a home. Or we’d be shunted over to, Glut. Think of that.”

Glut shudders.

“Or even UrbanDictionary,” Diatribe goes on. “It’s anarchy there. They make you mean whatever they want you to mean. Sheer chaos. Perfectly respectable words forced into the most disgusting, perverted positions I’ve ever. . .

“All right,” Glut says. “All right.” She glowers out of the screen door at Shovel-Ready. “But just see if they let them on the golf course in those outfits.”

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
Play Videos
Why seasonal allergies make you miserable
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
What you need to know about filming the police
Play Videos
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
The signature drink of New Orleans