Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

F-bomb: Look it up

Joins sexting, flexitarian in dictionary

  • Print

NEW YORK -- It's about freakin' time.

The term "f-bomb" surfaced in newspapers more than 20 years ago but will land Tuesday for the first time in the mainstream Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, along with sexting, flexitarian, obesogenic, energy drink and life coach.

In all, the company picks about 100 additions for the 114-year-old dictionary's annual update, gathering evidence of usage over several years in everything from media to the labels of beer bottles and boxes of frozen food.

So who's responsible for lobbing f-bomb far and wide? Kory Stamper, an associate editor for Merriam-Webster, said she and her fellow word spies at the Massachusetts company traced it back to 1988, in a Newsday story that had the now-dead Mets catcher Gary Carter talking about how he had given them up, along with other profanities.

But the word didn't really take off until the late '90s, after Bobby Knight went heavy on the F-bombs during a locker-room tirade.

"We saw another huge spike after Dick Cheney dropped an f-bomb in the Senate in 2004," and again in 2010 when U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden did the same thing in the same place, Stamper said.

"It's a word that is very visually evocative. It's not just the f-word. It's f-bomb. You know that it's going to cause a lot of consternation and possible damage," she said.

Many online dictionary and reference sites already list f-bomb and other entries Merriam-Webster is only now putting into print. A competitor, Oxford University Press, has f-bomb under consideration for a future update of its New Oxford American Dictionary but beat Merriam-Webster to print on a couple of other newcomers: mash-up, added to the Oxford book in 2005, and cloud computing, included in 2010.

No worries, Stamper said. The dictionary biz isn't a race.

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate gets a cover-to-cover overhaul every decade or so in addition to yearly upgrades. The Springfield, Mass.-based company also picks a defining word of each year closer to Thanksgiving. Among the company's other additions this year, including online at Merriam-Webster.com and various apps:

The Oprah-inspired "aha moment," the Stephen King-popularized earworm, as in that truly torturous tune you can't get out of your head, and man cave, brain cramp and bucket list.

The word "tweet" led last year's new-word highlights from Merriam-Webster. This year's additions are more eclectic, Stamper said.

"This is a list of really descriptive and evocative, fun words. Some years, not so fun."

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 14, 2012 A2

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Kevin Cheveldayoff announces Maurice contract extension

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A mother goose has chosen a rather busy spot to nest her eggs- in the parking lot of St Vital Centre on a boulevard. Countless cars buzz by and people have begun to bring it food.-Goose Challenge Day 06 - May 08, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google