Is it acceptable to serve edamame to a dinner guest who's a pescatarian?
Should you pour prosecco or soju for the winner of the Texas Hold 'em game you're planning near the infinity pool? And what's that wing nut in the corner saying about dirty bombs and nasty Noroviruses?
Before your next party, go ahead and consult the latest edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, which now includes edamame (immature green soybeans), pescatarian (a vegetarian who eats fish) and about 100 other words that have taken root in the American lexicon.
The wordsmiths at the Springfield, Mass.-based dictionary publisher say they picked the new entries after monitoring their use over years.
“As soon as we see the word used without explanation or translation or gloss, we consider it a naturalized citizen of the English language,” said Peter Sokolowski, an editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster. “If somebody is using it to convey a specific idea and that idea is successfully conveyed in that word, it's ready to go in the dictionary.”
Many new entries reflect the nation's growing interest in culinary arts, including prosecco (a sparkling Italian wine) and soju (a Korean vodka distilled from rice).
Others define new technology or products, such as infinity pool – an outdoor pool with an edge designed to make water appear to flow into the horizon.
Others reflect current events and much-discussed news topics, including dirty bomb (a conventional bomb that releases radioactive material) and Norovirus (a small, round single-stranded RNA virus, such as the Norwalk Virus).
And then there's “mondegreen,” which describes words mistaken for other words. A mondegreen often comes from misunderstood phrases or lyrics.
It comes from an old Scottish ballad in which the lyric “laid him on the green” has been confused over time with “Lady Mondegreen.”
Among the best-known modern examples: “There's a bathroom on the right” in place of Creedence Clearwater Revival's “There's a bad moon on the rise” and “'Scuse me, while I kiss this guy” in place of “kiss the sky” in the 1967 Jimi Hendrix classic “Purple Haze.”