February 9 2017
Jillian Kay Melchior
Merriam Webster announced this week that it has added more than a thousand words to its dictionary—and among them are “microaggression” and “safe space.”
The dictionary said in a news release that words are chosen depending on their frequent or increased use among a wide range of sources. “[They] are therefore likely to be encountered by a reader—and should be in the dictionary,” the news release said.
But sometimes, it can take decades for a word to get added. Merriam-Webster notes in its entries that the first known use of both “microaggression” and “safe space” was in 1970.
The new entry defines a microaggression as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).”
It also lists “microaggressive” as an adjective, as well as “microaggressor” as a noun.
Merriam Webster defines a safe space as “a place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations.”
Merriam Webster also seemed to poke gentle fun at political correctness in a flow-chart graphic it used explaining how words are chosen for the dictionary.
“Are you a special snowflake, and this is your special word?” Merriam Webster asked. Readers who chose the snowflake symbol were greeted with, “We don’t care.”
In addition to “microaggression” and “safe space,” Merriam Webster’s new additions include “prosopagnosia,” “binge-watch,” “humblebrags” and “throw shade.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.