Recently we asked listeners what words they were tired of and wanted removed from the dictionary.
The use of “literally” in phrases such as “I literally laughed my head off!” got a number of votes. One of our listeners hated the use of the word “impact” as a verb, as in “the debate impacted the vote.”
We asked Steve Kleinedler, executive editor of the American Heritage Dictionary for his thoughts.
He told Here & Now’s Robin Young that the dictionary often addresses those complaints in their usage notes, but in the case of the word impact, “it has a longstanding, decades, decades long use as a verb… Language changes over time, and this is one where the ship has sailed.”
There’s a reason dictionaries can be reluctant to remove words, once they’re on the books, Steve said. Back in the late ’90s, he suggested the American Heritage Dictionary remove what appeared to be an obsolete word relating to punch card technology: chad.
“After some discussion, the editors realized it’s still used in certain jurisdictions – in voting booths, for example – and based on that, we thought, ‘Okay, we’ll keep it in,’” Steve said. “And then a year later, of course, in 2000, the word chad rose to the top of everyone’s consciousness in a very large way. So it’s an example of, while even if we think something might be on its way out, you really want to take caution before you start deleting things willy nilly.”
The catchphrases that people are tired of, such as “YOLO,” standing for “you only live once,” tend not to make it into the dictionary in the first place, Steve said, since editors feel that they are ephemeral and might die out.
Steve also told us about the words the American Heritage Dictionary added this year. Several came from the food world, including the condiment “Sriracha.”
Jeremy Hobson joins Robin Young as co-host of Here & Now in its new 2-hour format, from WBUR and NPR.
The organizers of the Boston Marathon have issued special invitations to 450 people who made the case they were profoundly affected by the bombings in April.2 Comments | more »
The benefits of combining travel with volunteer opportunities are obvious. But critics say in the wrong hands, the trips can exploit and endanger the very people they’re designed to help.8 Comments | more »
Utah newlyweds Austin Craig and Beccy Bingham-Craig have decided to travel the globe and spend only Bitcoin — the virtual currency — for the first 90 days.29 Comments | more »