The first time I saw the word fintech, one of the more than 840 new entries added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary earlier this week, I hoped it signaled that someone had finally figured out how to create sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads. Alas, the word is only an abbreviation of financial technology, an umbrella term for the industry comprising all forms of digital banking and finance, including what’s named by four terms that were added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary just last March: cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, blockchain, and initial coin offerings.
Some of Merriam-Webster’s most recent additions aren’t really new words but modern uses of old words, some of them obscure and even unfortunate. Here are some of the ways lexicographers have caught us English-speakers putting new wine in old bottles:
In its new use, it’s an abbreviation of bourgeois and is defined as “informal, usually disparaging: marked by a concern for wealth, possessions, and respectability.” It’s even more disparaging when you consider what bougie already meant: “a tapering cylindrical instrument for introduction into a tubular passage of the body; suppository.” The two are, of course, etymologically unrelated, but you don’t have to tell that to whomever you’re calling “bougie.”
Flight has described the act of flying since before Orville and Wilbur Wright dreamed of opening a bicycle shop, so those readers who aren’t hopheads (in the newer sense; see below) might be surprised to find this on the “new words” list. This new flight is a selection of alcoholic drinks meant for tasting as a group. This definition is an expansion of the word’s use to describe other groupings, both ornithological and athletic, called flights.
Fans of Ready Player One will be familiar with the idea of a haptic suit — a full-body suit that allows players to physically feel what is happening to their digital doppelgangers in virtual reality. That’s one (extreme) example of modern haptics, “the use of electronically or mechanically generated movement that a user experiences through the sense of touch as part of an interface.”
This isn’t the first appearance of haptics, though; it’s the practical Computer Age application of the haptics defined in Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition: “that division of psychology which treats of sensations such as touch, temperature, pressure, etc., mediated by skin, muscle, tendon, or joint.”
The hop in the new definition of hophead refers to hops used to make beers; a hophead is a beer enthusiast. Not all beer drinkers like hoppy beers, though; I’m a wheat beer man myself. (Does that make me a weiss guy?) So be careful who you call a hophead, especially considering its earlier definition: It was slang for “drug addict.”
Mise en place
This French culinary term (which rhymes with “breeze on floss”) for the preparation and organization of ingredients in the kitchen before cooking isn’t new — it dates to the mid- to late nineteenth century — it’s just new to this English dictionary. Its addition here means that copyeditors can stop italicizing mise en place in English manuscripts.
Read the announcement at Merriam-Webster.com to see more of the recent additions, from adorbs to zuke, that hit the dictionary this week.