We uncover the criminal history of “gangbusters”

Welcome back to Pop Lexicon, The A.V. Club’s series with Kory Stamper, Merriam-Webster lexicographer and editor, where she reveals the origins of America’s favorite colloquialisms. In this video, Kory reveals the criminal history of “gangbusters,” a word first used in the early 20th century in reference to cops whose…

"Embiggen" is now in the dictionary, though "chazzwazzer" is still left out

Ever since about 1996, grammatical sticklers are fought against the runaway freight train-esque popularity of “embiggen”—a perfectly cromulent word made famous by The Simpsons that was technically not a real word. Finally, though, Merriam-Webster has seen fit to add “embiggen” to its online dictionary, officially…

Where did the phrase “get medieval on your ass” come from?

Welcome back to Pop Lexicon, The A.V. Club’s series with Kory Stamper, Merriam-Webster lexicographer and editor, where she reveals the origins of America’s favorite colloquialisms. In today’s edition, Kory tells us about the origins of the phrase “get medieval on your ass,” a threat made popular by Pulp Fiction.

Merriam-Webster is here for all your "dotard"-defining needs

The war of words between Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un got positively esoteric today, with the Asian leader denouncing Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” who he would tame “with fire.” Kim’s statements came after Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and its “Rocket Man” leader…

Merriam-Webster adds new words and definitions to the dictionary, including “alt-right,” “troll,” and  “pregame ”

Merriam-Webster, the dictionary known of late for its killer Twitter account, has added 250 new words and definitions to its pages of record. As usual with new words and definitions, they reveal a lot about the times that we live in, as these words and new meanings have to become widespread and sustained in written…

Merriam-Webster is once again explaining to Donald Trump how words work

Among other crimes—including, hopefully, treason—Donald Trump is a sub-verbal human. He is the diametric opposite of our previous president, who appeared to speak and think in legal-dictionary paragraphs, with a few “folks” thrown in for good measure. Trump, on the other hand, emits words in a diarrheal effusion, with…

Merriam-Webster helps Ivanka Trump out with the meaning of “complicit”

You can add recently appointed presidential adviser Ivanka Trump to the list of people who should probably look “burnt” up in the dictionary, courtesy of the social media team at Merriam-Webster. During a recent teaser for a CBS interview about her new role in the White House, Trump said she wasn’t sure what the word…

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Word By Word makes the surprisingly convincing case for “irregardless”

“The dictionary” is one of those background items that’s always just there, little thought about and quickly forgotten after looking up a word. Those of us who deal with the English language for a living might appreciate a particularly illuminating definition, but the focus is always on the word itself, not on the…

Merriam-Webster continues to define words for Kellyanne Conway

Merriam-Webster saw a spike of lookups for the word “feminism” on its site yesterday, following Trump administration advisor Kellyanne Conway’s use of the word at the Conservative Political Action Conference. “It’s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in the classic sense,” she said, “because it seems to be very…

Merriam-Webster throws “shade” into the dictionary

America still has much to learn from drag queens—gender being a social construct, for example, or the perils of hog body—but there’s one aspect of drag culture that has long since moved into the mainstream, and that’s the slang. Chief among these linguistic gifts is a new, many-layered meaning for the word “shade,” a…

Merriam-Webster tweets definition of “snowflake,” which is somehow a political act

Tweeting out definitions of words is now somehow political, as Merriam-Webster defines “fact” in the age of “alternative facts” and harnesses the power of its look-up data to explore the larger implications when a word like “demonstrator” gets extra attention. Today’s write-up of the meaning of “snowflake”—beyond the…

Merriam-Webster names “surreal” its Word of the Year for 2016

Language reflects culture, which is perhaps why Merriam-Webster put out a call late last month to defeat “fascism.” The dictionary was trying to avoid having to name the term—which was experiencing a “what is the EU”-style resurgence in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory on November 8—as its word of the year, an award…