Journalism, like many other businesses, is one in which words have meaning. Last week, about 10,000 words were recognized as having a meaning of their own.
The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary was released, with approximately 10,000 new terms. While I do not have a copy of this new dictionary — a new edition is produced every decade — I’ve had a chance to view a few of the invites to the vocabulary party.
Consider the following words, as I have:
l McJob: applies to a dead-end, low-paying job. The concept of adding the “Mc” prefix to everything, albeit somewhat demeaning to the Irish population, is an old habit for me.
Back when I was immature (Who am I fooling? It was last week.), I used to torture people who had McJobs, particularly at McDonald’s. The standard practice was to say, “I’d like a McChicken, McFries and a McCoke.” The employees usually responded to my McJoke with an unenthusiastic stare — suffice it to say, I’d never ask for a student discount when I tried this in high school.
l Phat and def: These are both adjectives that sound like other adjectives. But don’t bother looking to their homonyms for an explanation.
Phat does not mean overweight; it means “highly attractive or gratifying.” Fans of comedian Chris Tucker claim that Tucker created the term as an acronym for pretty, hot and tempting.
Def, meanwhile, has nothing to do with hearing (insert your favorite Def Leppard joke here) — it basically means that something is cool.
Isn’t it amazing how changing or omitting just a letter or two can completely change the implied meaning of something? Consider the following sentences: “I have a large DVD collection,” and, “I have a large VD collection.” Guess which one’s more likely to inspire movies at my place Friday night.
l Comb-over: The fact that we didn’t have this in the dictionary until 2003 is somewhat disturbing. We all know that a comb-over is the result of taking hair from one spot and manipulating it (most likely with a comb) to cover up a bald spot at another place — basically, hair plugs without the surgery.
For New Mexicans, I suggest a second meaning. Comb-over could also mean, “the re-combing of hair that becomes necessary after more than two minutes on a windy New Mexico day.”
There are a few words I think the crew missed, however. There’s always next decade for these words, assuming we use them with the same proficiency as Botox (plastic surgery), tweener (sports) or longneck (drinking).
l Efforting: Fans of ESPN Radio’s Dan Patrick Show can attest to this one. While its usage is incorrect, it’s understood. Effort is used as a verb, not as a noun. Efforting essentially means, “to make an effort.” I’m really efforting to get this into the next edition.
l Crunk: An oldie, but a goodie. Crunk retraces to the first days of Conan O’Brien in 1993 — yes, it’s actually been a decade. Crunk, O’Brien explained, was basically a substitute for a curse word — any curse word. So you’re a real crunker if you try to crunk with Conan’s crunk. It’s a great way to express your feelings without being obscene, plus it’s worth 11 points in Scrabble.
Maybe these words have a chance for the 12th edition of the big red book, maybe not. Even if they don’t, they’ll probably show up somewhere.
As song titles on the next Matchbox 20 album.
Kevin Wilson is a PNT staff writer. He can be contacted at 356-4483 or by e-mail: