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Al desko? The ants pants? 10 additions to the Oxford Dictionaries

Out of the fryer: Arancini have made it into’s lexicon.Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe

On Thursday, the Oxford Dictionaries released its December list of new words and phrases defined by — the biggest update in the online word guide’s history. For better or worse, these regularly issued lists offer a snapshot of how the English-speaking world is getting along right now, which is probably why there are so many abbreviations and references to food on the list. Who has time to spell out just how xlnt her meal at the izakaya tastes? It’s 2014! Time is tight!

Below, a subjective ranking of the list’s top 10, based on usefulness, potential to last beyond 2015’s first quarter, and how pleasing they are when they roll off the tongue.


10. Al desko. Sad desk salads, soups surreptiously slurped while on conference calls, and sandwiches half-eaten because of the nervous energy supplied by a looming deadline all have an overarching term to describe them. That it’s a play on “al fresco,” used to refer to dining out of doors, only makes it more perfectly cruel.

9. Shiny bum. An Australian term for an office worker. It sounds pre-emptively derisive, which is likely intentional.

8. Economic man. “A hypothetical person who behaves in exact accordance with their rational self-interest” — or, the “shiny bum” after he got his first promotion or two.

7. WRT. One of the more pleasant abbreviations to make the list, although Oxford’s version swaps in “reference” for a term also known as “with regard to.”

6. Five-second rule. The idea that food dropped on the floor for less than five seconds escapes contamination is probably a myth, but who among us has never justified a quick pickup with it in mind?

5. The ant’s pants. Sure, ants in a human’s pants might not be the best thing. But if an ant is wearing pants, it’s probably a fairly big specimen, as this Australian term referring to a particularly great person implies.


4. Misery index. Those short “i” sounds make this shorthand term for a country’s inflation and unemployment rates sound much more pleasant than its definition implies.

3. Mahoosive. Lengthen the “oo” in the middle according to how large the object you’re describing might be.

2. Crony capitalism. Bad practice, good term — this phrase refers to economic systems where business honchos and government officials are in cahoots.

1. Carne asada. This spanish term for marinated, grilled steak tops the list because taco time is all the time. The race for best food-related term was a close call between this and “arancini,” the Italian word for fried rice balls.

Maura Johnston can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @maura.