2020 in review: latest words added to the Dictionary

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Some of the dictionary’s latest additions include words and phrases like “AF,” “G.O.A.T.” and “contactless.” (Photo by Seven Shooter for Unsplash)

By Nadine Matthews
Special to the AFRO

It’s one of those things that brings out the little nerd in all of us. Finding out what new words, many of which we probably already use in our everyday lives, are now an official part of the English lexicon. That is, in 2020, they’ve been added to one or more of the major english dictionaries such as Merriam Webster, Cambridge Dictionary, Dictionary.com and Oxford Dictionary of the English Language.

For a word to be added to any major dictionary, it needs to be in use by a great number of people over a sustained period of time, and seem likely to stay in use for a long time. There were, of course, a number of new entries related to the coronavirus, including “PPE,” “contactless” and “WFH.” It’s debatable if anyone wants them around for very long, but undoubtedly are now universally recognized and used.

Below are some of the most popular words and phrases that have been formally adopted into everyday parlance. You can now use them with full confidence in your next game of Scrabble!

Dictionary.com

This year, one of the biggest changes isn’t actually a new word in and of itself but how that word is formulated and used.

“Black,” as in Black person or person of African descent, is officially being used with the “B” capitalized. Not only does the use of the capital communicate a measure of dignity to Black people that a racist society deliberately denied for generations, it also plants Blacks squarely on par as a distinct ethnic group, in addition to being a racial group. This is the same way that Native Americans, Jewish-Americans, Asian-Americans and other ethnic groups have always been capitalized, while recognizing that African-American, while acceptable, also erases certain groups or historical experiences.

“Whitesplain” and “brownface” have also entered the lexicon. The former being analogous to “Blackface” but applied to ethic groups such as Native Americans and Asians. Whitesplain of course is similar to mansplaining, where a person in a privileged group attempts, usually condescendingly, to explain someone else’s experience as a member of that marginalized group. Here we mean a White person (probably named Karen or Chad), telling a POC what their experience is.

It’s annoying when someone makes a statement into a question because they want to manipulate you into agreeing with them, right? Well, what might be less annoying is having to spell three whole words out when you could just make it one smooth hella cool word. “Amirite” has joined the dictionary chat.

While we’re on the theme of literary efficiency, the acronym inspired by a descriptive term often used for luminaries such as Serena Williams, Prince,  and Michael Jordan,  “G.O.A.T.” is also now a word- again- in a different way. You know what I mean.

Cambridge Dictionary

You may be shocked AF to learn that the abbreviation “AF,” is an adverb describing how intense something or some quality is.  Used as sort of a guilty slang term, is now totally legit. That being said, I’d still think twice about telling the boss she’s late AF to a meeting or she’s being annoying AF.

Merriam Webster

Speaking of “AF,” one dictionary with a reputation for being shady (particularly during the most recent presidential administration), is Merriam Webster, which added over 500 words this year. They include “deepfake,” the word we might use for those sketchy videos from Facebook your auntie or grandpa sometimes sends you, like the Jordan Peele deepfake that had President Obama uttering expletives. A “deepfake,” according to Merriam Webster, is an image or recording that has been convincingly altered and manipulated to misrepresent someone as doing or saying something that was not actually done or said.

And if you were ever going to look for “finna” in the dictionary, this is the year to do it. That term, as southern as fried catfish, trap music and sugared grits has also just been officially added to Merriam Websters.

Oxford English Dictionary

You can now sound perfectly respectable when you call your dumb family and friends exaclty what they are, as “chickenhead” is now in the Oxford English Dictionary. The same goes for “weak-sauce.”

In the past, words like “turnt” and “basic,” were also birthed in the streets, only to end up in the pages (digital and otherwise) of mainstream publications. We shouldn’t be surprised that some of these words added this year are also of the same urban provenance. So, is it only a matter of time before “dusty” and “WAP” make their entrance? What guiltily indulgent words or slang terms do you think will soon be added to the dictionary next year?