Last week, it was announced that about 150 new words were being added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Now, you can publish words such as “bromance,” “fist bump,” and “cougar” (yes, that kind of cougar) without any loss of intellectual integrity.
When news sources covered the dictionary’s new words, they overwhelmingly emphasized one addition that is close to my heart: tweet. That’s right, the noun and verb that has gained incredible attention both in and out of the social media world is officially a word. (Social media, by the way, was also added to Merriam-Webster this year).
What is the new definition of “tweet,” you ask? According to Merriam-Webster, the word is now defined as both “a chirping note” and “a post made on the Twitter online messaging service.” As one commenter has already stated, we can all be proud that this definition of tweet is less than 140 characters!
This addition to the dictionary follows closely on last year’s updates to the AP Style Book, which included a new section on citing Facebook and Twitter posts. With all of this literary legitimacy building around Twitter and social media in general, I can’t help but ask what this means for our culture. Some may understandably lament the rapid modernization of our language (I mean, bromance is really going to be in the dictionary?), so they may just see tweet as another fad word undeserving of all this attention.
However, when we consider the reason why “tweet” entered the dictionary, we may better understand the important implications of this addition. According to Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster’s editor at large, new words are added to the dictionary when “non-users have to know what that word means because they’ll encounter it so often in everyday use.” Since Twitter has played a significant role in world events from the Iranian election protests to the downfall of Congressman Anthony Weiner, it has become a force that cannot be ignored. Even those who are social media illiterate need to know what a tweet is to follow the news, and hence the word has earned its rightful spot in the dictionary.
Even though we live in a digital world, I can’t wait to get an old-school hard copy of the dictionary with all these new additions. Look for my tweets on the day that happens!