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Is it sus that Merriam-Webster just added pumpkin spice?

Pumpkin spice is one of the new additions to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Natasha Breen
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REDA&CO/Universal Images Group via Getty
Pumpkin spice is one of the new additions to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

It might be unfair to say that Merriam-Webster is out of touch (added in 2016). Its editors aren't the only ones trying to keep up with the ever-changing English language. Still, kinda cringey they just embraced it as an adjective, as in a cringe moment. On the other hand, Oxford just added it last June.

And pumpkin spice seems like it's been around long enough to have drawn the publisher's attention before now.

Other terms Merriam-Webster added this year:

janky : of very poor quality

sus : suspicious, suspect

virtue signaling : conspicuously displaying one's awareness of and attentiveness to political issues

shrinkflation : the practice of reducing a product's amount or volume per unit while continuing to offer it at the same price

sponcon : content posted usually by an influencer on social media that looks like a typical post but for which the poster has been paid to advertise a product or service

dumbphone : a device lacking advanced features

plushie : a toy covered in plush fabric and filled with soft material

"Some of these words will amuse or inspire, others may provoke debate. Our job is to capture the language as it is used," says Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster in a statement. "Words offer a window into our ever-changing language and culture, and are only added to the dictionary when there is clear and sustained evidence of use."

Yeet's a pretty good example of that window, as well as the lag time it takes for a word that's hot on social media to make its way to a legacy repository like Merriam-Webster.

Back in 2015 — seven years ago — Bustle ran with the headline "Here's Why People Are Suddenly Saying 'Yeet' " for an article exploring the word's origins. Yeet has moved from its beginnings as a dance Vine to an exclamation of excitement to the act of throwing something with force.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.

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