Unusual Words

Please read the following passage, noting the italicized words and phrases as you proceed.

Alonso got a big burst of inspo on his vacay after he unplugged and lazed around all week-he decided to become a professional pickleball player. Alonso, you see, imagines himself looking swole on a bluebird day, stans everywhere, as he scores in a heart-stopper with absolutely no garbage time on the clock. His friends all think “how on-brand of him” to want to become a pickleball player, considering that he joined the circus last year (and look how that turned out). In all fairness, though, how could Alonso have known that he’d get a bad case of coulrophobia and that captive animals would be his pain point?

Having a little trouble deciphering the italicized words and phrases? Then look them up in the dictionary, where they’ve been defined, phoneticized, etymologized, and presented in illustrative sentences.

Original words and phrases regularly enter the English language, through daily usage, and they have ever since humans developed language. New ideas and novel ways of saying things constantly appear and disappear, courtesy of people being playful and inventive with language. If these words and phrases noticeably catch on, the editors of the M-W dictionary will spot them in the extended reading materials they read to find possible entries, which is what happened to the italicized terms in the passage you read above.

Some of the new entries are shortened versions of traditional words. Inspo is short for inspiration, vacay for vacation, and swole for swollen, although the latter means muscular, not puffy. Some entries provide new definitions for words, like unplugged, which lately means taking a temporary break from using your computer, smartphone, and other electronic devices. Other entries name new phenomena, like pickleball, a tennis-like sport that involves short-handled paddles, a net, and a perforated plastic ball.

Speaking of sports, garbage time refers to the near-end of an athletic competition when it’s clear who the winner’s going to be. However, if the game is incredibly exciting, you’re a spectator at a heart-stopper, and if a perfect, cloudless sky is over the stadium at the time, then it’s a bluebird day.

New words can come from anywhere—psychologists coined coulrophobia, which is a disorder characterized by a fear of clowns. Finance is responsible for two of the new terms in the passage: on-brand, meaning in keeping with a particular brand, image, and pain point, which is a recurring turnoff people feel about a product or service. Even the world of music is represented in the new entries—the word stan, meaning a rabid fan, originated in a rap song by Eminem back in 2000.

Now that you know the meanings of the italicized terms in the passage, feel free to reread it to see if it all makes sense. English is a vibrant, ever-expanding language—so you’ll need more than one sesh (noun: informal for session) to get through it all.

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