Whether they're running a corner store or heading a Fortune 500 conglomerate, people in business love to talk shop. Shop talk varies from business to business and has its own vocabulary, but eventually some of the words and expressions spill over into popular culture. And our language, by and large, is the richer for it, according to the folks at Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. This year has been no exception.
Merriam-Webster's editors monitor the changing language and add new terms to the dictionary once those words come into widespread use across a variety of publications. This year the world of business contributed a number of terms and expressions that are now fully vested in the American popular lexicon.
Newly added words or phrases used to describe the global financial crisis include systemic risk ("the risk that the failure of one financial institution such as a bank could cause other interconnected institutions to fail and harm the economy as a whole") and underwater ("having, relating to, or being a mortgage loan for which more is owed than the property securing the loan is worth").
Other notable business additions this year include tipping point ("the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place"), toxic ("relating to or being an asset that has lost so much value that it cannot be sold on the market"), shovel-ready ("a construction project or site that is ready for the start of work") and game-changer ("a newly introduced element or factors that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way").
But all work and no play would make English a dull tongue. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary also has added words and phrases from outside businesses, including bucket list (popularized by the movie title), energy drink, gassed (slang for "drained of energy"), Oprah Winfrey's signature phrase aha moment (a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension), and f-bomb (a lighthearted and printable euphemism).
"Some of the new words this year provide colorful images," said Peter Sokolowski, a Merriam-Webster editor at large. "Terms like 'man cave,' 'underwater' (when used to describe mortgages), 'earworm' and 'bucket list' paint vivid pictures in your mind. They show that English-speakers can be very creative as they describe the world around them."