French-Canadian classic has the power to satisfy or offend in one comfort-food bite.:Mark LaFlamme explains poutine

NEW YORK (AP) — Mainers may not need a dictionary to understand poutine, but Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary is happy to define it for the rest of the world.

The French Canadian snack or side dish of french fries covered with brown gravy and cheese curds was among 150 new words announced Monday by the Springfield, Mass., company. It is now part of the Collegiate’s 11th edition and online database.

Many of the other new words and terms stem from digital life and social media — spoiler alert, hashtag, selfie and tweep — while others are food driven, including pho and turducken, a boneless chicken stuffed into a boneless duck stuffed into a boneless turkey.

Climate change and the environment did not go unnoticed, with the addition of cap and trade, a system that limits the amount of carbon emissions companies can produce but allows them to buy extra emissions from others.

Fracking also made it into the update, which has already shipped to retailers. So did e-waste and freegan, one who scavenges for free food in store and restaurant trash bins as a way to reduce consumption of resources.

“It’s a young word, from 2006,” Sokolowski said of freegan. “It’s one of the youngest in this list. This kind of environmentalism was a Lone Ranger type of activity before but has taken off.”

Merriam-Webster relies on a network of observers who track down word usage in everything from newspapers to soup can labels. Three or four senior editors make the final cut.

While an early reference toYooper — the moniker for native or longtime residents of the Lake Superior region known for a distinctive manner of speaking and its Scandinavian roots — can be traced to 1975, in an Upper Peninsula newspaper, it had a “break-out” moment in The New York Times four years ago, along with other mainstream media outlets, Sokolowski said.

“This word is fun to say and has a fun origin, from U.P. It’s just the kind of word that many people are likely to hear and remember — and look up in the dictionary,” he said, noting the distinctive dialect of turning “th” into a “d” sound for da Yoopers.

As for social media, well, that term is already in the dictionary, but social networking wasn’t. Adding the latter was “just taking care of business,” said Sokolowski, a word nerd and Twitter lover with nearly 11,000 followers.

So how does he feel about Oxford Dictionaries making selfie a star last year, when the British company named it word of the year? Did Merriam-Webster wait too long to jump on the selfie bandwagon?

“No, not at all. One of the most important things we have to watch is the trendiness of language, so we don’t want to put a word in that will then have to come out,” Sokolowski said. “We want to make sure a word is here to stay.”

Selfie, that thing with the smartphone that Ellen DeGeneres did at the Academy Awards, has now spawned shelfies, which are photos people put up on social media to show off their books and how they have arranged them. And we now have stealthies, those sneaky little phone pictures masquerading as selfies when the taker actually snaps what’s behind him or her instead.

Other new words in the Merriam-Webster Collegiate, along with the lookup database at

Catfish (not the fish but the person who takes on a false online identity, a la the phantom girlfriend of football pro Manti Te’o); steampunk, a literary genre with dress-up followers that mashes up 19th-century Victorian or Edwardian societies with steam-powered technology; unfriend, which joins defriend; and hot spot, a place where Wi-Fi is available.

And still more: crowdfunding, big data, baby bump, digital divide, dubstep, fangirl and gamification, the process of adding gamelike elements to something to encourage participation.

How to pronounce ‘poutine’ in proper Quebec fashion

Nel Roy of Lewiston wrote the following tutorial to writer Mark LaFlamme, which we offer here to, as Nel says, help you avoid embarrassment.

“I know you’re pronouncing the word as ‘Poo-Teen,’ right?

“WRONG! If your were to go to Canada and ask for poutine using this pronunciation, the person taking your order would laugh so hard they might even pee themselves right there in front of you . . . after which they would probably say ‘Vous n’etes pas d’ici, eh?’ which means ‘Not from around here are ya, eh?’ And so I offer you this phonetic assistance so as to properly pronounce the word “poutine,” to help you avoid any delay in your order and avoid humiliating embarrassment in front of a lot of people.

“The first part is phonetically correct: ‘poo,’ as in Poo Bear; the second part will take a little longer to explain but will be worthwhile, as you will never be made fun of in public, and also it will allow you to laugh hysterically at ‘those people.’ Now say the word ‘tss,’ like air escaping a tire. Yup that’s right. Now incorporate the first part and add ‘in.’ OK, now say the word ‘poo-tss-in.’ Come on now, follow directions and try again. . . . Now, when you ask for it, say it right and you’ll be treated like a brother Frenchman. And, when you answer the phone you can also say, ‘Allo, statue?’ Or give directions like, ‘OK, go ahead, back up.’

“Please pass this along to your readers so they too, can avoid any ridicule that may scar them for life.

“God bless, good luck, todaloo and au revoir mon ami.”

Nel Roy

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