Oxford Dictionary’s new words are making me fragile

Eileen Gault Burmeister
2 min readAug 7, 2023

It’s that time of year again. No, I don’t mean back-to-school time. I don’t even mean college football season. Of course I’m talking about the time of year when Dictionary.com publishes its list of words added to the online dictionary.

And once again I am left sitting at my desk, head in my hands, wondering why these words are even necessary for the English language to carry on.

Let’s take them one at a time:

  1. Rage farming made me laugh when I first read it, imagining some farmers plowing their fields willy-nilly due to unexpressed rage. But now, it actually describes the tactic of intentionally provoking political opponents, typically by posting inflammatory content on social media, in order to elicit angry responses and thus high engagement or widespread exposure for the original poster. No thank you. I’ve had enough of that over the last decade to keep our barn filled up for good.
  2. Cakeage, the red-headed stepchild of “corkage”, is the fee charged to anyone serving a cake brought from the outside. Like that time I snuck a DQ ice cream cake into McDonald’s playland, only a little classier.
  3. Petfluencer is a person who gains a large following on social media by posting entertaining images or videos of their cat, dog, or other pet. Really? I mean, if ever there was a time “Get a job!” is appropriate it is now.
  4. Antifragile means to become more robust when exposed to stressors, uncertainty, or risk. You mean “strong?” Don’t make this harder than it has to be.
  5. Superdodger is anyone who, for unverified reasons, remains uninfected or asymptomatic even after repeated exposure to a contagious virus. I anticipate a Marvel movie within the next year or so.
  6. Deadass means genuinely, sincerely, or truly; in fact. As in, I’m deadass going to write a strongly worded letter to the editors as dictionary.com.

And there are more. I just can’t bring myself to go on.

Why do I revere the dictionary so much that these additions make me cringe? Because my mom treated it like the Bible. Growing up, if we asked my mom what a word meant, she’d say, “Look it up in the dictionary” in her best Moses voice. It was most-used book in our home. The dictionary held all sorts of meanings, universes, ideas and helped explain the world around us. And I’m not seeing how “deadass” helps further explain the world around us.

In fact, it makes me want to eat junk food and grieve the loss of civilization as I know it. Preferably a DQ ice cream cake, and you better hold the cakeage unless you want to witness me becoming antifragile.

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Eileen Gault Burmeister

Storyteller, writer, editor, photographer, fascinated by words, forever reading the room.