(Stephan Savoia/AP)

If the English language is like a great and churning word stew, then dictionaries must sometimes play the spoons, scooping up fresh phrases as they surface: useful neologisms, well-baked slang and the best bits spilled over from foreign and academic tongues. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary recently announced the results of its most recent haul — more than a thousand new words filed into its pages and online repertoire.

“This is a significant addition of words to our dictionary, and it reflects both the breadth of English vocabulary and the speed with which that vocabulary changes,” said Lisa Schneider, the chief digital officer and publisher at Merriam-Webster, in a news release.

It was a bumper year for the hyphenated or two-part phrases you have most likely used, or perhaps spotted pasted over a photo of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Welcome the face-palm (the act of covering one’s face with a hand, out of dismay or embarrassment, as demonstrated by the good Starfleet captain), along with binge-watch, side-eye, weak sauce, wayback machine, chef’s knife, town hall, throw shade, ride shotgun and safe space.

There was no single hard-and-fast rule for the words that made the cut. Rather, dictionary curation involved judgments based upon the frequency, meaningfulness and spread of a word. Useful terms, widely spread, are “therefore likely to be encountered by a reader,” the dictionary wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “In some cases, terms have been observed for years and are finally being added; in others, the fast rise and broad acceptance of a term has made for a quicker journey.”

Merriam-Webster also released a cheeky diagram — with dead-ends such as “Did you bribe a lexicographer? Bad idea. Lexicographers are notoriously untrustworthy” — to depict the path of words from coinage to the dictionary. (Sassy seems to be the Merriam-Webster’s current social media operandi, particularly when it comes to Twitter. The effort has been aided by the fact that waggish dictionary editors do not want for high-profile — one might call them “unpresidented,” even — targets.)

Famous writers have no special truck with the dictionary editors, unless you happen to be Shakespeare, noted the infographic. Except this rule was broken in 2017 by the word “humblebrag,” a word minted by late writer and comedian Harris Wittels. In his book, “Humblebrag: The Art of False Modesty,” Wittels defined the term as “a specific type of brag that masks the boasting part of a statement in a faux-humble guise.” Wittels first became aware of the phenomenon when he was thrust into celebrity Los Angeles in 2006, he wrote, but it has flourished on Twitter. Before her account was suspended, reality star Tila Tequlia, for instance, once tweeted, “I hate my [Lamborghini]! Police is ALWAYS pulling me over just cuz its a lambo so they always think I’m speeding but I’m not!! Then they let me go!”

A few new words were acronyms: SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States), FLOTUS (first lady of the United States), EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) and NSFW (Not Safe For Work). (Pity the headline that juxtaposes all four.) Several terms were already in dictionary, but had to be updated to reflect a new permutation. One sense of the word “ghost” has departed from a supernatural being or spirit into a verb performed after a bad date — a swift and complete termination of all contact with a romantic partner.

From science, Merriam-Webster took microbiome, the collection of microorganisms living in a specific habitat, particularly within the human body; prosopagnosia, an inability to recognize faces, or face-blindness, which neurologist Oliver Sacks — who had it himself — described for the New Yorker (Sacks once exited his psychiatrist’s office and then met a strange and “soberly dressed man who greeted me in the lobby of the building” — this was, in fact, his analyst); and the revolutionary gene-editing technique CRISPR.

A few other new inductees included microaggression, that subtle or unconscious slight against a marginalized group; Seussian, meaning to evoke Dr. Seuss; ginger, red-colored hair or a person with red hair; and photobomb, photographs humorously ruined by the unexpected placement of a face, animal or other object.

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