Dumpster Fire

Dr. James Emery White
Dr. James Emery White

Merriam-Webster recently added more than 800 additions to its online dictionary. As a feature on NPR noted, the additions “are like a Lexicographer’s Guide to 2018 – in all its self-conscious, millennial-obsessed glory.”

So let’s take a tour through a few:

Dumpster fire: an utterly calamitous or mismanaged situation or occurrence: disaster

(You’ve seen the gif, I’m sure.)








Embiggen: to make bigger or more expansive

Mansplain: to explain something to a woman in a condescending way that assumes she has no knowledge about the topic

Hate-watch: to watch and take pleasure in laughing at or criticizing (a disliked television show, movie, etc.)

Glamping: outdoor camping with amenities and comforts (such as beds, electricity and access to indoor plumbing) not usually used when camping

Self-care: care for oneself… the necessity of busy working parents to take time for self-care; specifically, health care provided by oneself often without the consultation of a medical professional

Welp: used informally like "well" (as to introduce a remark expressing resignation or disappointment)

Bandwidth: the emotional or mental capacity necessary to do or consider something

Yes, many of these will not be new to you. “But we, as a dictionary, are not looking in real time. We are kind of a lag indicator, in financial terms,” says Merriam-Webster editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski. “We are really interested in the terms that are here to stay, that we are very unlikely to ever take away from the dictionary.”

If you don’t know these words, you might want to learn them. Speaking of the term “dumpster fire,” Sokolowski notes: “Its breadth is so great today, I am relatively sure it’s here to stay. It’s been used so broadly, in the last two to three years especially, that people in the future will have to know what it meant.”

Welp, that may be, if you have the bandwidth for it. Maybe we can talk about it while we’re glamping and hate-watching season two of True Detective.

Or do I have to mansplain that to you?    

James Emery White



Laurel Wamsley, “A Phrase for Our Time: Merriam-Webster Adds ‘Dumpster Fire’ to Dictionary,” NPR, March 5, 2018, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Originally published March 12, 2018.

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