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‘Tweet’ makes dictionary? Fist-bump

Merriam-Webster adds 100 entries

Among the new dictionary entries is “boomerang child,’’ one who has returned home in adulthood for financial reasons. Among the new dictionary entries is “boomerang child,’’ one who has returned home in adulthood for financial reasons. (Charles Krupa/Associated Press)
By Stephanie Reitz
Associated Press / August 26, 2011

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SPRINGFIELD - Here’s something for your Twitter feed: “tweet’’ has earned a spot in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.

Used as both a noun and a verb, the word describing a post made on the online Twitter message service is among more than 100 new terms revealed yesterday for the dictionary publisher’s newest edition.

“Tweet’’ takes its place among newly included words that reflect everything from high-tech advances to the delicate nuances of family and social relationships.

The newcomers include overly involved “helicopter parents,’’ for instance, and the “boomerang child’’ who has returned home in adulthood for financial reasons. Maybe he is pending his days listening to “Americana’’ music, steering clear of that lonely “cougar’’ across the street, and hanging out a lot with his best buddy, shaking off jokes that they are in a “bromance.’’ And, of course, he tweets every detail.

The wordsmiths at the Springfield dictionary publisher said they picked the new entries after monitoring their use over several years and watching for references in a variety of sources, including mainstream media outlets.

Some terms, like tweet, rocketed into prominence in recent years as celebrities, politicians, and news outlets have embraced Twitter to immediately reach a worldwide audience.

“Even if people had no interest or possible chance of getting a Twitter account themselves, they now have to know what ‘tweet’ means, and that’s really why it’s in the dictionary,’’ said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large.

“It’s not just because the users of that service are so numerous, although they are. It’s because even the nonusers have to know what that word means because they’ll encounter it so often in everyday use.’’

The Oxford English Dictionary, a London competitor, also recognized the growing service when it added “retweet’’ to its Oxford English Concise version this summer with other technology-influenced terms like “cyberbullying,’’ which already had a spot in Merriam-Webster’s. Another noteworthy newcomer: “fist bump,’’ which John Morse, Merriam-Webster president and publisher, says he considers “the star of the group’’ for its ability to succinctly capture the movement and emotion of that simple act of solidarity.

Two people can take special credit for the elevation of “fist bump’’ into the dictionary: President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, whose knuckle-knocking gesture of affection when he accepted the 2008 nomination was described by The Washington Post as “the fist bump heard ’round the world.’’

Other new words include terms influenced by new technology, such as “m-commerce’’ (business transactions conducted by using a mobile device); and by sports, including “walk-off’’ (ending a baseball game by scoring the home team’s winning run in the bottom of the last winning).

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