With fall almost here, it’s time once again for all good fans to root for their favorites – favorite words that is. And since it is now actually meteorological fall (the months of September. October and November), it’s officially time for Dictionary.com’s “Fall 2023 Collection of Dictionary Additions.”

As is the case with virtually every good lexicon, Dictionary.com doesn’t proscriptively endorse or prohibit words and terms, but rather “document(s) their use in the real world. We are descriptive – we describe language as it is really used (not just how we or others may wish it would be used).”

Without further adieu, here (in no particular order) are some of my favorites from the dictionary’s 566 new autumn entries and 348 new definitions.

A “nepo baby” is defined as “a celebrity with a parent who is also famous, especially one whose industry connections are perceived as essential to their success.” Obviously the term comes from “nepotism,” which is the practice of granting an advantage, privilege or position to relatives or close friends in an occupation or field. You know, like when a U.S. president names his daughter and her husband to be his senior advisors.

In these days of texts and emails (and after a few failed attempts at humor on my part), “Poe’s Law” seems like a really good idea. According to Dictionary.com, the law states that “unless some tone indicator is used, it is impossible to tell the difference between an extreme view being sincerely espoused and an extreme view being satirized.”

Next up are a couple of words that we’ve all been hearing recently, both of which get their roots from the verb “whitewash.” “Greenwashing” is the “practice of promoting or affiliating a brand, campaign, mission, etc., with environmentalism as a ploy to divert attention from policies and activities that are in fact anti-environmentalist.”


And “sportswashing” is the “practice of rehabilitating the bad reputation of a person, company, nation, etc., or mitigating negative press coverage with a sports event (and) celebrating fans’ shared love of a game.” Words some countries try to LIV by.

In the term “crypto-fascism” the “crypto” has nothing to do with that form of money that I totally don’t understand. Rather it refers to something that’s hidden or secret. In other words, the noun “crypto-fascism” is simply “secret support for fascism.”

“Information pollution” is something we all struggle with on a daily basis. The noun is defined as “the introduction of falsehood, irrelevance, bias, and sensationalism into a source of information, resulting in a dilution or outright suppression of essential facts.

“Biohacking” is “biological experimentation, especially upon oneself, using technology, drugs, hormones, diet, etc., with the goal of enhancing or augmenting performance, health, mood, or the like.” (I was going to try that memory supplement that’s advertised ad nauseam on TV but I can’t remember its name.)

“Pessimize” is a fun verb. The opposite of “optimize,” it means “to make less good, efficient, fast, functional, etc., especially in the context of computers or information technology.” The word just happens to pair wonderfully with “bloatware,” which Dictionary.com says is “unwanted software that is preinstalled on a newly bought device, especially when it negatively impacts the device’s performance.

Blursday,” reports the site, is “a day not easily distinguished from other days, or the phenomenon of days running together.” Apparently “Whoseday” and “Whensday” immediately precede “Blursday” in our “Groundhog Day” work weeks. (Are the other two weekdays “Munday” and “Frieday”?)

And finally, there’s “decision fatigue,” which is the cumulative mental exhaustion that comes from having to make the relentless small decisions we deal with throughout our day (which is probably one of the main reasons why we suffer through so many Blursdays and their immediate relatives).

Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.” He can be reached at jlwitherell19@gmail.com.

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