Merriam-Webster Embraces 'Botnet,' 'NSFW,' and 'Net Neutrality' - Technologist
Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Merriam-Webster Embraces 'Botnet,' 'NSFW,' and 'Net Neutrality'

If you're looking for the definition of demurrer or argle-bargle, pretty much any reputable dictionary published in the last hundred years will do. But if you're looking to find the meaning of "botnet," you might have to rely on less-established sources, even Wikipedia. While language and technology evolve quickly, giving us an endless list of neologisms ranging from "fax machine" to "defriend," the dictionary makers of the world, those modern-day Samuel Johnsons and Henry Campbell Blacks, take a bit more time to separate the wheat from the "chillax."

But they catch up eventually. This week, Merriam-Webster announced that it was adding more than 1,000 words to its pages, many of them technological in origin. Now you'll finally have something reliable to cite the next time you're explaining open-source NSFW listicles.

We're Going to Need a Bigger Dictionary

Merriam-Webster's largest dictionary, "Webster's Third New International Dictionary" (unabridged) contains more than 470,000 entries -- soon to be more than 471,000. Merriam-Webster has yet to publish the full list of lexicographical additions, but their announcement page gives us a brief preview.

Many of this year's tech additions, the company notes, focus more on "what we do with technology -- how it is managed, deployed, and organized -- than giving a name to the technology itself." That means more additions like "peer-to-peer," fewer like "FAX machine."

Among the new words are abandonware, backward compatible, botnet, clickbait, keylogger, listicle, NSFW, open source, ping, and rootkit.

Defining the Net Neutrality Debate

The most topical addition, as Ars Technica points out, is net neutrality, which Merriam-Webster defines as "the idea, principle, or requirement that Internet service providers should or must treat all Internet data as the same regardless of its kind, source, or destination." Recently, the FCC enshrined net neutrality principles in its Open Internet rules, which went in to effect in the summer of 2015.

But those principals have been called in to question by the Trump administration, with the FCC now chaired by Ajit Pai, one of the Commission's main net neutrality opponents. Merriam-Webster's illustrative quote demonstrates the continuing debate. There is, the quote explains:

a philosophical contest that's being fought under the banner of "net neutrality," a slogan that inspires rhetorical devotion but eludes precise definition. Broadly, it means everything on the Internet should be equally accessible -- that the Internet should be a place where great ideas compete on equal terms with big money.

Of course, the dictionary also added plenty of non-tech terms as well. A few of our favorites include Seussian ("of, relating to, or suggestive of the works of Dr. Seuss") and SCOTUS, for the Supreme Court of the United States.

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