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New Words From The American Heritage Dictionaries

The American Heritage Dictionaries added over 500 new words to the fifth edition of its dictionary of the English language, including food words like banh mi, halloumi and mochi, as well as terms like clickbait, cosplay, pregame and dashcam.

American Heritage Dictionaries executive editor Steve Kleinedler joins Here & Now’s Lisa Mullins to take a look at a few of the new words and explain out why the American Heritage Dictionaries doesn’t pick a “word of the year.”

Oxford University Press’s word of the year was “vape” — to inhale and exhale the vapor of an e-cigarette — and Dictionary.com picked “exposure,” with credit card hacking and Ebola in mind.

Interview Highlights: Steve Kleinedler

How they research new food words

“Our food editor looks at a variety of not only menus, but checks food sources, looks at recipes that are published in newspapers, blogs. And seeing how wide the term is used — is it restricted to just these regional cuisines, or does it have a more national flavor to it. … It is not coincidental a large portion of the new material is food-related; and another source being medical terminology. One reason we don’t focus on words of the year is because our focus during the year is more towards these meat and potato words that are important, have already been a part of the language, a good example being psychiatry terms with the updated edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.”

On adding the word ‘pregame’

“Specifically what we added was the partying aspect. Pregame as something that would happen before a game would be understood from its component parts. … What we’ve called out is the noun use referring to the party itself that occurs before an athletic competition, similar to tailgating.”

On adding the word ‘cosplay’ 

“I think it had a very robust presence among bloggers, and therefore seeped over into traditional media as well. You see it in reference not only to conventions, but the entire industry that springs up around conventions, and it’s become a think that’s discussed beyond those borders so that people who don’t engage in cosplay are more likely to be at least aware of it because of all the coverage that it receives.”

On updating the pronunciation of ‘harass’

“Harass, as you mentioned, is interesting in that in 1987, the panel was split as to whether it was pronounced HAIR-iss or huh-RASS and then in 2001, 70 percent favored huh-RASS, and just last year, 90 percent of the panel, that was their preferred form. So in 25 years, among the makeup of the panel that time, it’s gone from a 50/50 split to a 90/10 split. Casually, anecdotally, from listening to the news, it seems to me as well that newscasters are saying huh-RASS more than HAIR-iss.”

More Word Conversations With Steve Kleinedler


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