Pretexting, Subprime, Netroots Accepted Into Merriam-Webster Lexicon - InformationWeek

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7/8/2008
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Pretexting, Subprime, Netroots Accepted Into Merriam-Webster Lexicon

"Malware," "dwarf planet," "fanboy," and "webinar" are also words and phrases now judged mainstream because of their prolonged and widespread use in a variety of publications.

When the word "pretexting" hit national news headlines two years ago because of a scandal over Hewlett-Packard's investigatory tactics, the word did not have a formal definition.

This week it's officially part of the English language, defined by Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary as "presenting oneself as someone else to obtain private information." It's one of several technology- and science-related words to gain enough mainstream traction for inclusion in the latest edition of the dictionary.

Merriam-Webster said it adds words and phrases judged mainstream because of their prolonged and widespread use in a variety of publications.

For example, the phrase "dark energy," first used in 1998 by scientists explaining a theoretical force that opposes gravity and is thought to accelerate the expansion of the universe, is officially recognized in the latest edition, as are "malware," "dwarf planet," "fanboy," and "webinar," which has been in use since 1998.

John Morse, Merriam-Webster's president and publisher, said in an announcement that webinar is "one more example of the significant ongoing trend for electronic technologies to add words to the language."

Tech policy wonks and bloggers will be happy to hear that "netroots," a word to describe "political activists who communicate via the Internet, especially by blogs," is now recognized as a real word. It first surfaced in 2003.

Reflecting some of the burdens of these times, "Norovirus" and "subprime" have also become part of the official English language.

"Not a happy job, but one that lexicographers have to do," Morse said of the Norovirus addition.

The new words and phrases have already been added to the online dictionary. The 2008 print update for the 11th edition will hit U.S. bookstores Sept. 1.

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