CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thanks to technology and popular culture, new words enter the language each year, while other words go the way of bell-bottom jeans and daily newspapers and gradually fade from the scene.
An official source of acceptance for new words is the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, which recently released its list of 25 words to be added to the 2012 edition of the popular reference book.
Oprah Winfrey can be credited/blamed for the first word in this year's alphabetically arranged list. Her signature phrase "aha moment," meaning a flash of sudden insight, is now an officially recognized noun. An Oprah-sanctioned job description, "life coach," was also anointed as a noun.
Other new words making the list include "bucket list," inspired by the movie of the same name, and "earworm," which is not the corn-boring pest, but the popular expression for a song that gets stuck in one's head.
The popular new beverage categories "energy drink" and "craft beer" made the Merriam-Webster cut, as did "gastropub," a bar where gourmet food can be washed down with craft beer. In other new food and beverage words, diners who occasionally lapse from their vegetarian diets and eat meat or fish can now be correctly referred to as "flexitarians."
President Obama's stimulus program had something to do with "shovel-ready" qualifying as an adjective to describe a ready-to-build construction project. Other new words with roots in the current political-economic climate include a new definition for "toxic" as the description of an asset that has lost so much value it can't be sold, and a new definition for "underwater," to describe a mortgage loan for which more is owed than the property is worth.
"Man cave," is now an officially recognized word for a room, often in a basement, in an adult male's home used to house hobbies or take part in leisure activities.
A new word of interest to those of us in the Biscuit Belt is "obesogenic," an adjective used to describe something that promotes excessive weight gain.
Perhaps the most controversial word on this year's list is "f-bomb," a popular euphemism for the a-bomb of American curse words. It's listed right after "e-reader," the officially accepted word for the handheld electronic device you may someday soon be holding to read this column.