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Few people probably realize that it was one of Santa's helpers assembling iPhones for Christmas delivery who, while testing a device, inadvertently hit the photo button and created a phenomenon that would spread worldwide.

Santa's helpers were soon all snapping pictures and sharing them with friends, but it wasn't until a tweep trying to save precious characters tweeting out a message shortened Santa's Elfies to selfie that a new word was born.

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Back in May Merriam-Webster added about 150 new words to its dictionary. Among them were selfie and tweep. The dictionary's website puts the first known use of the word selfie at 2002, but they don't go into details about the origins of the word. Now you know the rest of the story. My version anyway.

The gamification of a column isn't easy, but after looking through some of the words added to the dictionary this year I figured it would be a good exercise to see how many of them I could actually use. Gamification, Merriam-Webster says on its website, is "the process of adding games or gamelike elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation."

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So see how many of these words you use and consider yourself gamified.

One of the words that was just added this year has been on my mind the past couple weeks, since I heard a commercial for it on the radio. Thanksgiving was approaching, and some store or another, I don't remember which, was advertising turducken. A turducken should in reality be called a chuckey because it is a boneless chicken stuffed into a boneless duck stuffed into a boneless turkey. The turkey should be last in the name and the chicken should be first because the chicken is the first in the order of what gets stuffed into what. Of course, if you are counting by way of how it appears when you cut into it, then perhaps turducken works too.

I won't even get into the question of how you raise boneless fowl. Suffice it to say that if you had turducken, or chuckey, nobody got to make a wish at the end of the meal and a lot of folks lost out on the joy of opening the fridge hours later to pick smidgens of meat off the remaining bones.

Another new word that has been in the news, just last week as a matter of fact, is fracking. Maryland is considering regulating fracking, which is the process of injecting fluid into shale beds at high pressure in order to free up petroleum resources. It's short for hydraulic fracturing. I was surprised that Merriam-Webster says the first known use of the word was in 1953, but it took them 61 years to include it in the dictionary.

Among the new words for something old category I found freegan. According to Merriam-Webster, a freegan is someone "who scavenges for free food (as in waste receptacles at stores and restaurants) as a means of reducing consumption of resources."

Back in the day we used to just call them Dumpster-divers. When I put that word into the online dictionary's search it came up empty. Interesting, since they say the first known use of freegan wasn't until 2006. I've used Dumpster-diver a lot longer than that.

Perhaps if you freeganize behind the right restaurants you could score some poutine, which Merriam-Webster defines as "French fries covered with brown gravy and cheese curds." Take away the cheese curds and replace that with roast beef and you get what we've been calling open-faced sandwiches for years. They say it is mostly popular in Canada though, so I guess our version is safe from any danger of being renamed.

If you're hesistant from deploying any of these new words, you might take some solace in the fact that most of them were submitted for years before they got the official nod of approval. Hesistant is still awaiting the honor. It is a combination of hesitant and resistant which, if you think about it, doesn't really make any sense. If you hesitate, you aren't necessarily for or against it, but if you are resistant, you definitely don't want it. It all seems like an exercise in excessive labelization (another word awaiting anointment).

If a lot of these words are foreign to you, don't fret. According to a Jan. 1 estimate by the Global Language Monitor, the English language contains 1,025,109.8 words.(And no, I don't know what .8 of a word looks like). The average person, according to multiple sources, has a vocabulary of about 12,000 to 20,000 words.

That leaves more than 800,000 exwordorous (extra words nobody uses) options available. And yes, I just invented exwordorous. Start voting now and let's get it added to the dictionary next year.

Jim Lee is the Carroll County Times' Editor. Email him at jim.lee@carrollcountytimes.com.

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