Merriam-Webster’s New Phrases Nod to Sustainability


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It’s official: Pumpkin spice is right here to remain… properly, in accordance with Merriam-Webster, that’s. In a current launch, the publishing firm shared that they added 370 new phrases and definitions to the dictionary in September 2022. Other than “pumpkin spice,” three phrases that nod to environmental efforts within the meals business—”plant-based,” “oat milk,” and “greenwashing”—had been among the many few hundred different new phrases that made the lower.

In keeping with Merriam-Webster’s assertion, the dictionary works to chronicle how language grows and adjustments over time. “When many individuals use a phrase in the identical manner, over an extended sufficient time period, that phrase turns into eligible for inclusion,” it reads. Within the slang class, you’ll discover new phrases like “sus” and “yeet,” which appear to have solely risen in reputation solely in the previous couple of years. In the meantime, it’s placing to search out decades-old phrases like oat milk, plant-based, and greenwashing simply now being given a proper definition.

First issues first: how had been the phrases outlined?

The brand new official definition for “oat milk” is fairly simple: A liquid produced from floor oats and water that’s often fortified (as with calcium and nutritional vitamins) and used as a milk substitute. Nonetheless, for the “plant-based” definition, Merriam-Webster opted for 2 options. First: “Made or derived from vegetation.” Suppose plant-based burgers. And the second: “Consisting primarily or solely of meals (equivalent to greens, fruits, nuts, oils, and beans) derived from vegetation.” Suppose plant-based meals. In the meantime, “greenwash” was outlined as “to make (one thing, equivalent to a product, coverage, or follow) look like extra environmentally pleasant or much less environmentally damaging than it truly is.”

However these phrases *aren’t* precisely new, are they?

If we take a stroll down reminiscence lane, in an article revealed by The New York Instances, writer Ethan Varian writes that the time period “plant-based” was coined on the Nationwide Institutes of Well being in 1980 by Cornell College biochemist Thomas Colin Campbell, who used it to current his analysis on a non-animal-product food plan to skeptical colleagues. Nonetheless, the dictionary additionally signifies that the time period could have been used way back to the 60s. I’ll allow you to do the maths.

In the meantime, oat milk has been round since 1994, when it was created by Oatly’s Swedish founders, brothers Rickard and Bjorn Oeste, who had been researching a substitute for cow’s milk for individuals with lactose intolerance. And at last, New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld coined the time period “greenwashing” in a 1986 essay by which he claimed the lodge business falsely promoted the reuse of towels as a part of a broader environmental technique; when, in truth, the act was designed as a cost-saving measure.

Are we choosing up on a pattern right here?

Why are these phrases lastly making their dictionary debut?

Nearly half a century later, these “inexperienced” phrases which might be usually used to explain sustainability efforts are simply making their *official* debut. So why now? Maybe it has one thing to do with the booming plant-based F&B business. Bloomberg Intelligence analysts say that the plant-based meals market might make up practically eight p.c of the worldwide protein market by 2030, with a price of over $162 billion, up from $29.4 billion in 2020.

Including these sustainability-adjacent phrases to the dictionary, nevertheless, additionally nods to an elevated curiosity in sustainability efforts and local weather change discount, in accordance with analysis by IBM Institute for Enterprise Worth (IBV). The survey of 16,000 world customers performed by the corporate discovered that greater than half (51 p.c) of respondents say environmental sustainability is extra necessary to them right now than it was 12 months in the past. It additionally confirmed that customers’ actions are beginning to match their intent.

How necessary is the language relating to sustainability and plant-based diet?

As plant-based protein sources proceed to take a stable share of the market, meat-based purveyors are preventing again. A critical level of competition amongst meat business foyer teams has been plant-based CPG labeling. These teams have labored endlessly to restrict the usage of phrases like “milk,” “meat,” and “burgers,” simply to call a number of, when describing or labeling plant-based merchandise.

Take, for instance, a invoice that was handed in 2018 in Missouri that prohibited corporations from “misrepresenting a product as meat that’s not derived from harvested manufacturing livestock or poultry.” Or Louisiana, which set to impose (however was struck down by a federal decide) as much as a $500 nice per day for each advertising use of phrases equivalent to “burger” and “sausage” on plant-based meat merchandise, even with correct qualifiers equivalent to “vegan” or “meatless.”

So, ought to the official indoctrination of those new phrases into the dictionary be thought of a particular and validating win for sustainability efforts? We’d actually wish to assume so, however a small a part of us can’t assist however assume: Is lastly including these phrases to the dictionary excellent timing, or is it just too little too late?

Just a few sustainability tricks to eat for a more healthy planet:


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