Once, you might have been stuck for the word to describe an unsightly tummy bulge protruding over low-rise jeans. But "muffin top" is one of hundreds of new words and phrases, along with "hoodies", "size zero" and "man flu", that have entered the language and are listed in the Collins English Dictionary's 9th edition, published yesterday.
How words become adopted into the language is something of a mystery, but Conservative Party leader David Cameron's suggestion that we hug a "hoodie" can perhaps take credit for the word's inclusion in the dictionary. A preoccupation with environmental issues, a favourite topic of Cameron's, is also reflected in new phrases such as "carbon footprint", "carbon offsetting" and "season creep", used to describe the changing length of the seasons thought to be caused by climate change.
The "celebutantes", young heiresses who morph into celebrities, may have had a hand in the inclusion of the term "size zero", used to describe the much-derided super-skinny look.
The male half of the population can be more accurately described thanks to the dictionary's inclusion of "man flu", the male tendency to exaggerate the effects of a cold, and "man bag", the male version of the handbag.
The fast food chain McDonalds may be wasting its time lobbying dictionary publishers to scrap the pejorative McJob, as a new word inspired by the chain has sneaked into the tome. A "McMansion" is a large, modern house with a mass-produced look.
The war on terror has engendered several new words such as "Londonistan" - a reference to the UK capital being a base for radical Islamists. World events have had an impact too, with Gitmo - slang for Guantanamo bay - making it into the dictionary.
The shifts in the language are monitored through a 2.5 billion-word database gathered from newspapers, magazines, books, websites, and transcripts of radio and TV programs.
Source: China Daily/Agencies