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Geeks get a word in with Merriam-Webster

Geek culture once again shows its influence over the mainstream lexicon with the latest version of Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. New entries include fanboy, netroots, and webinar.

Geek culture is once again showing its influence over the mainstream lexicon in the latest version of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, which includes word additions such as webinar, malware, netroots, pretexting (thank you Hewlett-Packard), and fanboy (thank you Apple).

Webinar is "one more example of the significant ongoing trend for electronic technologies to add words to the language," Merriam-Webster publisher John Morse said in a Monday press release about the 100 or so new words in the 2008 edition of the influential reference guide.

That's in line with Merriam-Webster's choice of the term "wOOt"--with its roots in video game culture--as the word of the year for 2007.

The 100 or so new words in M-W's latest dictionary reflect societal trends beyond technology. For example, some stem from culinary arts, such as prosecco (a sparkling Italian wine), soju (a Korean vodka distilled from rice), edamame (immature green soybeans), and pescatarian (a vegetarian whose diet includes fish).

But my favorite new entry, by far, is mondegreen, defined as "a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung." According to M-W, the term was first coined by author Sylvia Wright in 1954, when Wright wrote an article for The Atlantic magazine confessing to a childhood misinterpretation of the Scottish ballad "The Bonny Earl of Moray." "When she first heard the lyric, 'they had slain the Earl of Moray and had laid him on the green,' she felt terribly sorry for the 'poor Lady Mondegreen,'" according to the press release.

A more contemporary example is the bungling of the Jimi Hendrix "Purple Haze" line, "Scuse me, while I kiss the sky" as "Scuse me, while I kiss this guy." My personal mondegreen example is the line from the Clash song "Rock the Casbah," "The shareef don't like it," which I always thought was, "Shareeve don't like it." Who was this Shareeve character anyway, I wondered. You got one? M-W is asking the public to submit their own mondegreens by July 25, with favorites to be revealed and featured online beginning July 28.

M-W says it picks the new dictionary entries only after it starts to see the words used over time without explanation or translation. Here's an Associated Press story with more details.