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Rick Steelhammer: What's in a word? It's hard to know when there are 640 new ones

Just when I became enough of a wordie to tell the difference between a bitcoin and a microcredit and learned that a kabocha is something used to make a jack-o-lantern in Japan, while a kombucha is foul-tasting fermented tea, the folks at Merriam Webster added 640 new words to the English language.

The 640 additions made by the dictionary company’s lexicographers were for the first quarter of this year alone, following an infusion of 850 new words made last September.

The choices are starting to get a bit overwhelming. At this rate, in another few years, I may start following the lead of our current president and rely on the same 100 or so words to describe all the amazing, beautiful, tremendous, nasty, loser things that exist between Mar-a-Lago and the dark state. We’ll see.

The newest crop of words suitable for official use include some that are new to me and other that are familiar, but repurposed.

Among the official new words I have not heard in usage is “stan,” which means a very devoted fan — not the slang name for a Middle Eastern nation that ends in those four letters, like Pakistan or Uzbekistan, as I initially guessed. Also new and official is “swole,” which refers to the muscle-swollen physique of someone who spends more time working out than dining out.

According to Merriam Webster, the new listing of “buzzy” refers not to a state of substance-altered consciousness, but to a person or topic that is generating a lot of excited talk and attention.

“Snowflake” still can be used to denote a frozen, crystalized water particle, which if allowed to accumulate, will force people to rush to Kroger to buy bread, milk and toilet paper. But now it has been given the official OK to be used by right-wing radio hosts in describing someone who is overly sensitive, as in anyone more liberal than Alex Jones.

“Garbage time” is not every Wednesday morning, when the good folks at Waste Management arrive at the Steelhammer Compound to haul off all that can’t be recycled. Instead, according to its dictionary listing, it refers to the final minutes of an athletic event with a lopsided score.

Meanwhile, the Oxford English Dictionary also released a list of new words for the first quarter of 2019 that had more of a British feel to them. Included was “bowf,” meaning stinky; “bampot,” or someone who is foolish or annoying; and “bawbag,” a long-standing Scottish insult that is a synonym for scrotum.

The OED did pay homage to a fictional Scottish-American by officially recognizing MacGyver as a verb for solving a technical problem by improvising a solution with items at hand.

Finally, the Oxford dictionary added “Cohee,” a name for people who live in West Virginia or the mountains of western Virginia. According to the dictionary, the history and etymology of Cohee is unknown.

But from a brief online search, it seems that Cohee referred to people who lived in the western portion of the Alleghenies in the 1700s, while those who lived to the east were known as Tuckahoes.

I’m familiar with a small community and a small lake, both named Tuckahoe, near White Sulphur Springs, and I am aware that there is a circuit judge named Cohee in Berkeley County. Maybe someone can clear up this Cohee-Tuckahoe business for me, and spare me having to MacGyver an answer from some bowf bampot who may not really know.

I’d be your biggest stan!

Reach Rick Steelhammer at, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

Funerals for Thursday, January 23, 2020

Ball, Mamie - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville. 
Browning, Molly - 1 p.m., Evans Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Chapmanville.

Coleman, Jason - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Eskew, George - 1 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.

Friend, Raymond - 1 p.m., Foglesong-Casto Funeral Home, Mason.

Fuller, Ellen - 11 a.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Hood, Melissa - 2 p.m., Gatens - Harding Funeral Home Chapel, Poca.

King, Mildred - 1 p.m., Sharon Church of God, Dry Branch.

Miller, LouEllen - Noon, Koontz Funeral Home, Hamlin.

Sovine, George - Noon, Culloden Community Cemetery.

Ward, Debra - 1 p.m., Graceland Cemetery, Alum Creek.