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Dictionary.com adds 'Jawn' and 'shower orange' among other new terms

So what exactly is a "shower orange"? (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
So what exactly is a "shower orange"? (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

New words just dropped! Dictionary.com added a selection of 566 new entries to its vast online catalog. ‘Pessimize,’ ‘shower orange,’ and ‘greenwashing’ are some of them.

Pessimize’ is essentially an antonym of ‘optimize,’ and means to make something worse. ‘Shower orange’ is exactly what it sounds like; It’s an orange eaten in the shower. The term was popularized on social media through claims that the steam from a shower enhances the fruit’s citrus flavor. ‘Greenwashing’ refers to the practice of using environmentalism as a plot or distraction from other anti-environmentalist practices within a company.

Subcategories for the new words include artificial intelligence — with words like ‘chatbot’ (a computer program designed to respond to human input) — and modern problems, with phrases ‘hostile architecture’ (architectural elements designed to prevent loitering or sleeping in public) and ‘crypto-fascism,’ meaning secret support of fascism.

Aside from new entries, Dictionary.com wrote new definitions for 348 entries and revised definitions for 2,256. Some of those revisions were efforts to remove binary-gendered phrases from hundreds of entries, often opting to replace ‘he’ or ‘she’ pronouns with ‘they’ pronouns.

For example, the definition of ‘folk singer’ changed from “a singer who specializes in folk songs, usually providing his or her own accompaniment on a guitar” to “a singer who specializes in folk songs, usually providing their own accompaniment on a guitar.”

The new and adapted entries mirror the way language changes naturally over time. And, as in the case of ‘shower orange,’ internet slang and trends also often bleed over into linguistics.

Many of the new entries have been circling the internet for years now, with users often trying to pin down a concrete definition for actions or concepts that a majority of people encounter in their day-to-day lives.

Decision fatigue’ — mental or emotional exhaustion from having to make countless small decisions — is one of those entries. So are ‘stress eating,’ or emotional eating, and ‘sleep debt’: “The difference between the amount of sleep a person needs and the actual amount of time spent sleeping,” on Dictionary.com.

“I think our update really has a theme, a pattern of helping us name the complexities, the demands of modern life,” says John Kelly, vice president of editorial at Dictionary.com. “Our language is as vibrant and as creative as ever. So we are also adding new words to help us more playfully characterize the experience of what it means to be a person.”

Definitions of new words on Dictionary.com from John Kelly

Jawn

Noun. “It originates in the Philadelphia area, and it is used there to refer to something or someone that the speaker doesn’t know the name of or doesn’t necessarily need the name for. A ‘thingamajig’ might be an interesting synonym, but jawn’ gives it a great Philadelphia flavor.”

Nepo baby

Noun. “A nepo baby is a celebrity who has a famous parent, and [the term] has a little bit of a pejorative connotation. The implication is that a celebrity has benefited from their parental success.”

Blursday

Noun. A made-up word for when days feel indistinguishable. “I think today is Thursday but I’m not 100% certain because I’m in between Zooms and Netflix streaming and errands and yoga.”

Jolabokaflod

Noun. “It is an Icelandic word that refers to a tradition of giving and reading books around Christmas. It literally means Christmas book flood.”


Hafsa Quraishi produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Catherine Welch. Grace Griffin adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.