British Columbia

'Tent city' among new words added to Merriam-Webster dictionary this year

“Tent city” is a phrase that many in the province have been hearing more frequently, and this week, the Merriam Webster dictionary announced it will be added to the dictionary along with more that 800 new words.

Editor Peter Sokolowski says the words reflect pertinent issues and challenges facing communities globally

Peter Sokolowski, an editor with Merriam-Webster. The dictionary announced this week a list of over 800 new words which will be added to their pages. (Peter Sokolowski)

"Tent city" is a phrase that many in the province have been hearing more frequently, and this week, the Merriam Webster dictionary announced it will be added to the dictionary along with more that 800 new words.

Two major tent cities were established in Nanaimo and Saanich this summer leading to court battles unfold, between the homeless residents and the community.

The addition of the phrase shows that society as a whole is addressing the needs of others by ensuring there is specific language for the problems communities are facing today, said Peter Sokolowski, an editor with Merriam Webster.

"We were seeing this terminology used in a very specific way much more frequently over the past few years," he told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"Now, there's this new piece of it and … we add to the definition; a collection of many tents for temporary shelter as for displaced or homeless people. In other words, it has this specificity now that it didn't formerly have."

The term applies to the issue of homelessness locally but has also been used frequently in reference to the global refugee crisis, he said.

Even though there's nothing particularly official about a new entry to the dictionary, Sokolowski said, "many people do view it as a kind of naturalization into the English language."

The editors at Merriam Webster take note of words used in everything from ingredients lists and menus to online media and print publications in a process that's more of a "conveyor belt than an audition," he said.

"We take citations of words in the wild, as they're used in publications, and we keep track of them. As they grow in frequency … they become eligible for entry."

Changes in the way we approach medicine and the way we interact with technology are also reflected in the list of new words being added to the dictionary, as well as more abbreviations and phonetic respellings.

"Those were things that didn't often show up in print. They were more spoken forms. Yet today, we communicate via text or instant message or written post  …  in which we're actually transcribing speech."

With files from All Points West

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

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