Grist: “The world is on fire, and so is our vocabulary. Merriam-Webster added 640 new words to its online dictionary last week. The additions include swole (“extremely muscular”), new meanings for snowflake (someone who is “treated as unique or special” or “overly sensitive”) and, you guessed it, a whole batch of neologisms tied to the environment. “The work of revising a dictionary is constant, and it mirrors the culture’s need to make sense of the world with words,” the dictionary’s announcement reads.
Many of the new arrivals reflect the creative ways big corporations have found to trash the place. Our plastic pollution problem has brought us microplastic, “a piece of plastic that is five millimeters or smaller in size.” The natural gas industry (the folks who gave us “fracking”) introduced flowblack, “liquid used in fracking that returns to the surface after being injected into shale.” Then there’s omnicide, “the destruction of all life or all human life (as by nuclear war).” Great, you say, any other downers? Of course! Bioaccumulation for the gradual buildup of contaminants, like pesticides and heavy metals, in an organism over time. And chronic wasting disease is an illness that afflicts deer, leading to weight loss, drooling, and listlessness. For a more cheerful phrase, take bluebird day, “a day marked by cloudless blue skies.” Sounds lovely until you learn about the potential cloudpocalypse (not an official dictionary entry, I just made that up) in which a lack of climate-regulating cloud cover brings about a scary global-warming feedback loop. Another nice one: petrichor, the name for that pleasant, earthy smell that fills the air after a rain. Contributing to that odor is geosmin — an organic compound created by soil- and water-dwelling bacteria. The ever-expanding agricultural lexicon brought us a few new selections, such as the verb hydroseed, for the spraying of a liquid seed-mulch-fertilizer mix, along with the easy-to-pronounce insecticide called imidacloprid….”