Things That Aren't In The Dictionary

Things That Aren't In The Dictionary

Laura Marrich
2 min read
Things That Aren't in the Dictionary
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Technically I’m the Music, Food and Managing Editors at this paper. But I’d have a different job title altogether if I had to honestly assess what I do for most of my day. Crouching within the narrowest, most literal definition of my job, I’m a professional reader.

I read the paper from cover to cover at least two times every week. Threaded within every paragraph of every article are several trips to the
Associated Press Stylebook (or "The AP," as we like to say here in Nerdtown) and Merriam-Webster, our dictionary of reference.

Merriam-Webster is powerful. It’s an arbiter of the English language and a living document that (
in theory, anyway) changes with our conversations. If it ain’t in M-W, the thinking goes, it’s not yet part of the cultural mainstream.

It pains me to admit it, but in my heart of hearts I know it’s all bullshit. If Dumpster is trademarked—and is therefore capitalized—what’s the generic, lowercased alternative? And why is it that the dictionary recognizes "dump truck" (note the small "d" here), "inner city" and "jump shot," but ignores "maxi pad," "spray paint" and "music video"? (You’re honestly telling me that muscovy ducks sightings are more common than music videos?)

I open the floor to you. What’s not in the dictionary but should be?
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