Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Merriam-Webster adds 530 words to online dictionary, including "dad joke" and gender-neutral pronouns

A retro analog dictionary from 2003
A retro analog dictionary from 2003
Photo: Tim Boyle (Getty Images)

What did the cheese say to the other cheese when it was about to take a picture? “Smile!” That, dear readers, is an example of what Merriam-Webster would call a “dad joke,” which is to say that it’s “a wholesome joke of the type said to be told by fathers with a punchline that is often an obvious or predictable pun or play on words and usually judged to be endearingly corny or unfunny”—even though it is actually much funnier than that definition would imply. Anyway, “dad joke” is one of 530 new words and phrases that Merriam-Webster has added to its online dictionary, alongside “free solo” (like the thing the guy does in the movie), “escape room,” “fabulosity,” and “tallboy” (for when it’s time to vacay and you just need a chill sesh). Also, “vacay” and “sesh” have been added.

Meanwhile, if you’re concerned about any of these new words coming from a nefarious government conspiracy (or you’re simply too busy eating chili to host your stupid radio show), you’ll be happy to know that “deep state” has also been added—referring to a secret government network operating outside of the law that may or may not involve lizard people. On the complete other side of the world of words, Merriam-Webster has also added a new definition of “them” and “they” to account for their use as nonbinary and gender-neutral pronouns, which the site notes has been an accepted use of the word for a long time.

There’s also “inclusive,” “colorism,” and “Bechdel test” (which is a phrase coined by cartoonist Allison Bechdel and refers to a set of criteria used for evaluating a work of fiction based on its use of female characters). For the record, this story is written by a man and primarily concerns words and talking cheese, so it does not pass the Bechdel test.


You can read about Merriam-Webster’s previous batch of new words (including “stan” in the Eminem sense) over here, and you can read more about this current batch at Merriam-Webster’s Merriam-website. And that’s the end of this story! Nothing more to see here.

A man appears, shrouded in darkness. “Those aren’t all the words they added, Mr. Stark.” He steps forward, revealing himself to be Nick Fury, Director Of S.H.I.E.L.D. “They also added the word ‘stinger,’ which is what you call the thing after the credits of a Marvel movie.” Fury then transforms into a giant spider with the face of a clown, representing a physical manifestation of Tony Stark’s childhood fears. “And also ‘coulrophobia,’ which refers to an ‘abnormal fear of clowns.’ Plus, if you’re having trouble picturing this imaginative scene, you could have ‘aphantasia,’ which makes it hard for people to form mental images.” Fury steps back into the shadows, noting that this stinger also does not pass the Bechdel test.

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