Each year the Merriam-Webster Dictionary updates its pages with new words. Sometimes the additions include everyday terms to many people that seemingly should’ve been recognized long ago, while others are rather surprising.
This month 370 new definitions were added to the 470,000-plus word book. According to The Washington Post, an increasing familiarity with foods of varied cultures has inspired the inclusion of the culinary phrases 'banh mi' and 'omakase', amongst others.
'Bánh mì', pronounced BUN-mee, is the Vietnamese term for 'bread' that also refers to a submarine-like sandwich that is served on a split baguette with meat, pickled vegetables, peppers and cilantro.
Merriam-Webster editor Peter Sokolowski explains its inclusion, “Bánh mi might seem so familiar to you, and there will be people who will be saying that you’d have to have been living under a rock not to know what it is, but there will be others who might encounter it for the first time on our list.”
Simply put, not everyone gets exposed to words at the same time, and additions like this help to broaden people’s cultural horizons.
Another phrase sure to serve as a window into Asian cuisine is 'omakase'. In Japanese culture, it means “I’ll leave it up to you,” or in other words, leaving the details of an order up to the restaurant. The experience using the phrase varies depending on what type of food establishment you’re at. Think of it as a chef's choice.
For example, in sushi restaurants, where omakase originated, it’s fairly straightforward as chefs usually have more experience with the available seafood options. It also can be used at restaurants simply known for great food and even for wine pairings.
Sokolowski noted that food terms are one of the most effective ways for the English language to expand, as in modern times they tend to retain their original spelling and pronunciation. “The English language has an amazing capacity to absorb words just like the culture incorporates different foods.”
Besides 'banh mi' and 'omakase', other food related terms like 'plant-based' and 'oat milk' have been included in the dictionary.
For a complete list of the latest additions to Merriam-Webster, you can visit their official website.