Language is not a fixed thing. If you need any proof of that, go read Shakespeare or something. No, but really, language is a constantly evolving, amorphous being. It changes and adapts to its environment. Take 2020 for example, in the course of one—extremely momentous—year, the English language adopted an entire host of new phrases to reflect our situation and communicate our new reality. (Had you ever said “Zoom happy hour” before last year? Me neither.) Who better to formally arbitrate our current vocabulary than Merriam-Webster themselves? Yes, the folks at the eponymous dictionary actually add new (and additional meanings to existing) words annually in a bid to modernize the language and this year’s batch just dropped. But first, a few gems from last year: self-isolate, WFH, contactless.
There are, of course, important additions by Merriam-Webster to the 2021 English language, like deplatform and super-spreader, that accurately depict our modern speech, but because we’re a food site and all we can think or talk about is food, we’re going to be focusing on the new words that have to do with, you guessed it, food.
All hail Fluffernutter. I’ve been talking about this peanut butter and marshmallow spread sandwich since I was in Elementary school, so I’m a bit surprised to see it on this year’s list, but I’m not complaining!
Sometimes a word gets integrated into English from another language. Welcome, horchata! The creamy drink has a long history that spans centuries and continents. From Spain to a Vampire Weekend song to a U.S. dictionary—what a trajectory.
Another Spanish import. If you needed a reminder of what an indelible impact Spanish-speaking cultures have had on American food culture—and culture at large—then let this be it. These crispy bits of pork skin that I grew up buying at the grocery store checkout line deserve a place in our dictionary and that’s that on that.
To be completely honest, I’d never heard of this German-inspired sausage and grain patty, but I’m pretty into the idea of a zhuzhed up hamburger. There’s spices, oats and herbs in this? Sign me up.
Every once in a while a kitchen appliance appears that absolutely takes over the zeitgeist. First it was the Instant Pot and now it's the Air Fryer. It should come as no surprise that the Air Fryer has once and for all entered the hallowed annals of the English language as an official word.
No, it has nothing to do with Halloween. Ghost Kitchens are a thoroughly modern phenomenon that have risen with the proliferation of meal delivery apps. They’re slightly shady and kind of nebulous but the idea is these are standalone kitchens that pump out meals for delivery without any kind of storefront attached. Boo appetit!
What food words would you like to see added to the dictionary this year? Let us know in the comments below.
See what other Food52 readers are saying.