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Vishing, unboxing, and teachable moments: new words added to is today updated with hundreds of new words and phrases. Here are some of the highlights…

An heir and a spare


It’s appropriate, given that the Duchess of Cambridge is currently pregnant with her second child, that an heir and a spare has now entered While an heir is any ‘person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death’, an heir and a spare is used humorously in British English to refer, typically, to members of the monarchy or nobility. They were said to need two children: one to succeed to a title and the other to guarantee the family line should anything happen to the first.



McTwist (an aerial manoeuvre in skateboarding and snowboarding ‘in which the boarder spins one and a half times while holding the edge of the board with one hand’) is one of many terms relating to winter sports that have been added to in this update. Others include boardercross, empty-netter, skimo, super-G, superpipe, wrister, the adjective bluebird, and new senses of death spiralpow, and skeleton. While it might be assumed that McTwist is in some way connected with McDonald’s (Mc- has been noted as a prefix indicating mass appeal or standardization with reference to the fast-food chain since the 1980s), it is actually named after the American skateboarder Mike McGill, who invented the manoeuvre.



One of the new words that reflects a change in technology in recent years, the noun bioprinting is defined as ‘the use of 3D printing technology with materials that incorporate viable living cells, e.g. to produce tissue for reconstructive surgery’. Bioprinter also enters our dictionary in this update; other new words from the sphere of technology include optogenetics, data scientist, and RDF.



The etymological journey to the noun vishing starts some distance away, with a sense of the word freak. This was respelled in phreaking, due to association with phone, to mean ‘the action of hacking into telecommunications systems, especially to obtain free calls’. This led (following the same pattern) to a respelling of fishing as phishing when meaning ‘the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers, online’. Finally, vishing is the same practice via phone calls or voice messages (rather than email), and is a blend of voice and phishing.



While the word unbox (to remove from a box) is found as far back as the early 17th century, the word has had a recent resurgence. The verb unbox (and the associated adjective unboxed and noun unboxing) now enter largely thanks to a growing trend on social media: unboxing is ‘an act or instance of removing a newly purchased product from its packaging and examining its features, typically when filmed and shared on a social media site’, such as YouTube.



Janky is an informal adjective used as an adjective to describe something ‘of extremely poor or unreliable quality’, as in ‘the software is pretty janky’. The origins of the term are unknown, and jank is also used interchangeably with janky: ‘the car is embarrassing to drive because it’s so jank’.

Teachable moment


A teachable moment is ‘an event or experience which presents a good opportunity for learning something about a particular aspect of life’. Used chiefly in the US, one prominent use of teachable moment came in 2009, after the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates for supposedly attempting to burgle his own home led to a national debate on the topic of racial profiling by police. In a statement, President Barack Obama expressed the hope that the event would be ‘what’s called a “teachable moment”’; the phrase attracted considerable attention in the American media and across social media.


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