Merriam Webster is one of the most entertaining websites. It is to me, but perhaps it would be more correct to call it fascinating and educational? I enjoy reading both the articles and the definitions. In fact, I especially like old dictionaries, and when I get more space than I have at the moment I want to collect them. The English language is incredibly simple and incredibly complicated at the same time. I know enough to have almost all types of conversations, but you can study this language systematically your entire life without being able to master it.
I read somewhere that there are one million words in the English language, while you could manage well with a third of that in most other languages. We are all influenced by what we hear and read, but if the vocabulary on TV is limited we are not likely to learn as much as we did when we read classic literature. I find the many synonyms especially fascinating, but they aren’t just different words for the same thing. There are differences. People that don’t know anything about Inuits like to say that they have a hundred words for snow. I don’t know if the number is that high, but it is probably high because snow can have different qualities.
I used to live in Western Telemark, a really cold place with snow from October to April, and I could see that snow was a lot of things. It was for example frequently too dry to make a snow man, and I am sure there is a word for that. It didn’t snow often in Telemark, but we had what Merriam Webster refers to as ondings.That’s a heavy snowfall that doesn’t meet the criteria for a blizzard. We had two meters of snow during most of the winter, but it had a tendency to come all at once. The rest of the time I was mostly freezing my butt off, and I am sure there are at least a dozen words for how my buttocks felt. Incidentally, the first snowfall in early October is always a skift, just barely enough to cover the ground.
I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or not, but the English language also has multiple words for being drunk: bombed, smashed, stiff, stewed, wasted, wiped out, blasted, hammered, stoned, impaired. That doesn’t sound like a condition I’d like to be in multiple days every week. I thought the whole idea was to have a good time.
Vocabulary is relevant this week because Merriam Webster has added more than a thousand new words to their dictionary. Any language that doesn’t evolve will be the next Latin, and very dead. I’m surprised it took this long, but now you can use the word seussian without running into trouble with the grammar police. It could refer to Doctor Seuss or someone with a playful, imaginative language. Geeks didn’t used to be very popular, but people want to take advantage of the trend, so they can geek out, which means that they get excited about a particular subject. I wish this meant that being different or outside the box suddenly was accepted, but it’s not that simple. I think people just want to geek out while it’s trendy. Speaking of people desperately seeking attention and approval, photobomb is also a new word in the dictionary.