This time I’ll continue looking at some of this fall’s new entries into as well as take a look at the dictionary-wide changes made by the website to remove “binary-gendered phrases” from the tome.

Getting right to the gender-neutral language efforts, the dictionary is removing the “he’s and she’s” and “his and hers” from definitions and replacing them when needed with “they’s.” According to the site’s K. E. Callaway, “On the inclusivity side, (the use of)  ‘his’ or ‘her’ (within dictionary definitions) does not include people who use other pronouns. In terms of usage, ‘they’ is simply much more common as a generic pronoun than ‘he’ or ‘she.’”

In many other cases, entries in have simply been rewritten to avoid using a pronoun at all. For example, the old definition of “volunteer” was “a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking.” The word’s new definition is “a person who voluntarily offers to perform a service or undertaking.”

As for some of the new words recently added to, first up in the category “For Word Lovers” is “accismus,” or “an ironic rhetorical device in which one feigns indifference or makes a pretense of refusing something one desires.” (I couldn’t possibly accept such a generous gift. Well, OK, if you insist.)

“Sonder” is the feeling we have when we realize that every other person we see has a life that’s as full and rich as our own, and that we and others play secondary or insignificant roles in it. Possibly from the French word “sonder” (to probe, plumb), the word’s American usage was coined by U.S. writer John Koenig in his blog “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows.”

A word I really like is “paraprosdokian,” which is “a sentence or expression in which the second part provides an unexpected resolution or contrast to the first part, as in ‘I’d like to see you again, but I’ve lost my glasses.’”


A “mountweazel” is “a decoy in a reference work, such as a dictionary or an encyclopedia.” Mountweazels are planted among real entries to deter other publishers from copying content. Mapmakers do the same thing by adding a nonexistent alley to a street, for example.

If you know someone who never laughs well, that person is an “agelast,” which is “a literary term for a humorless person (often used attributively).”

Under the heading of “Useful ‘Un–’ Words” we have the adjective “uncrewed,” which is described as the “ungendered alternative to ‘unmanned,’” and is defined as “(especially of an aircraft, ship, or spacecraft) without the physical presence of a person or people in control.” The entry goes on to note that “crewed” is also a word.

Another useful un– word is “unsee,” which is “to remove (something seen) from one’s memory or conscious awareness.” One use of “unsee” would be, “I can’t unsee that guy I saw who was wearing a pink shirt, green slacks, white shoes and a gold chain around his neck.”

This leads us to “unsend,” a verb defined as “to delete (a digital message such as an email or text) from the devices of the sender and receiver.”  (Also described as “what I should have done to that email I sent to that guy pointing out his fashion faux pas.”)

A word that seems very relevant these days is “unfalsifiable,” which defines simply as “adjective. Not able to be proven false, and therefore not scientific.”

Among the entries in the “Even More words” section, is the thought-provoking “presentism,” a noun that means “the centering of present-day attitudes, values, and concepts in the interpretation of historical events.”

And finally there’s “snite,” a British verb meaning “to wipe mucus from (the nose), especially with the finger or thumb.” (I hope you downed your breakfast before reading that one.)

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

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