Posted on Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 by Peter Sciretta
When a little low budget documentary Catfish played at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, who would’ve thought the indie would change popular culture in the way that it has? Not only was the film was a critical and commercial success, but it spawned an MTV reality series that has been one of those shows that I rush to watch every week it airs — its surprisingly great. But thats the point, Catfish surprises in every way possible. The title of the film, which comes from an almost-completely unrelated story delivered late in the film, has been adopted in popular culture and now Merriam-Webster Dictionary is making it official — the dictionary adds Catfish definition inspired by the movie and television show.
Every year Merriam-Webster announces new words which are being added to the dictionary, and the 2014 edition will include this new Catfish definition. Alongside the classic Catfish definition, “a type of fish that has a large head and long thin parts that look like a cat’s whiskers around its mouth” you will now find a new meaning (spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t watched the Catfish movie or television series) “refers to a person who sets up a false social networking profile for deceptive purposes”.
Other new words being added to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate dictionary in 2014 include “big data,” “crowdfunding,” “fracking,” “freegan,” “gamification,” “hashtag,” “pho,” “poutine,” “selfie,” “social networking,” “steampunk,” “turducken,” “tweep,” and “Yooper.”
It does seem weird that Merriam-Webster took so long to add “social networking” to the big book but are quick to add “tweep” (meaning, “a person who uses the Twitter online message service to send and receive tweets”). Its also strange that it took this long to add “pho” (a soup dish of origin over 100 years ago), “poutine” a Canadian dish which has been around since the 1950s, or the “turducken” a meat mashup which was first mentioned in a 1774 book called “The Art of Cookery”. While all of those words deserve to be in the dictionary, alongside a newer slang use of “catfish”, the priority in adding some of those words in 2014 seems odd. But better late than never.