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Merriam-Webster adds 'alt-right' and 'sriracha' and 250 more words to its dictionary

Merriam-Webster has added more than 250 words to its dictionary in the last month, including “alt-right” and “sriracha.” Alt-right is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a right-wing, primarily online political movement or grouping based in the U.S. whose members reject mainstream conservative politics and espouse extremist beliefs and policies typically centered on ideas of white nationalism.” Sriracha, of course, is a delicious hot sauce.

Many of the new entries come from the worlds of food, technology and politics.

Alt-right, which dates from 2009, has drawn criticism from those who believe it is a euphemism for white nationalist ideologies. The Associated Press instructs journalists to avoid the term, “because it is meant as a euphemism to disguise racist aims.”

The dictionary also added a new, politically inspired definition to the word “dog whistle”: “an expression or statement that has a secondary meaning intended to be understood only by a particular group of people.”

The technology-related words added by Merriam-Webster include “ransomware,” defined as “malware that requires the victim to pay a ransom to access encrypted files,” and “Internet of Things,” which is “the networking capability that allows information to be sent to and received from objects and devices (such as fixtures and kitchen appliances) using the Internet.”

The update brings some good news to foodies hungry for culinary-related words. Fans of spicy condiments can rest easy knowing that sriracha, or “a pungent sauce that is made from hot peppers pureed with usually garlic, sugar, salt and vinegar,” has been enshrined in the dictionary.

Also added were “bibimbap,” the Korean dish, and “froyo,” a term for frozen yogurt that dates back to 1976.

Merriam-Webster Associate Editor Emily Brewster said in a news release that lexicographers are responsible for following “the development of language” over the years.

“These new words have been added to the dictionary because they have established themselves in the English language, and are part of the current, active vocabulary of America,” Brewster said.

The addition of the new words comes on the 308th birthday of Samuel Johnson, author of the 1755 “Dictionary of the English Language,” considered one of the most important dictionaries in history. Johnson was honored on Monday with a “Google Doodle,” a special animated feature that appears on the search engine's homepage. The tribute to Johnson features his famous definition of “lexicographer”: “a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.”

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