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Malware infects Merriam-Webster

Fanboys drop dirty bomb on collegiate dictionary

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Worshippers at the altar of Jobs rejoice: Merriam-Webster's latest edition of its Collegiate Dictionary has embraced fanboys among more than 100 new entries gracing its updated pages.

Interestingly, Merriam-Webster has identified the first fanboy in an English language publication as far back as 1919, albeit in the sense of "boy who is an enthusiastic devotee, such as of comics or movies".

IT and the interweb have also given us "malware" (first clocked in 1990), "netroots" (2003) and the repulsive "webinar" (1998).

Out in the real world, meanwhile, Merriam-Webster tips its hat to "air quotes" (1989 - "gesture made by raising and flexing the index and middle fingers of both hands, used to call attention to a spoken word or expression"), "dark energy" (1998), "dirty bomb" (1956), "kiteboarding" (1996), "norovirus" (2002), "pretexting" (1992) and "subprime" (1995).

In case you're wondering why it's taken a while for some of these to achieve official recognition, Merriam-Webster editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski explained to AP: "As soon as we see the word used without explanation or translation or gloss, we consider it a naturalized citizen of the English language.

"If somebody is using it to convey a specific idea and that idea is successfully conveyed in that word, it's ready to go in the dictionary."

Sokolowski's personal fave is "mondegreen" - "a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung" - coined back in 1954 by author Syvia Green. As a lass, Green misheard a line from The Bonny Earl of Moray, and confessed when she first heard the lyric "they had slain the Earl of Moray and had laid him on the green", she felt "terribly sorry for the poor Lady Mondegreen".

Merriam-Webster offers a few examples of classic mondegreens, including "There’s a bathroom on the right" = "There’s a bad moon on the rise", from Credence Clearwater Revival's Bad Moon Rising, and is inviting mondegreenists to submit their own examples. ®

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