The Big Data Definitions Merriam-Webster Forgot

Social Media Strategist, Information & Analytics Group

With a new school year upon us, Merriam-Webster recently released a list of words being added to the 2012 edition of the venerable Merriam-Webster Collegiate® Dictionary. As you might expect, the list is peppered with terms from pop culture and the world of technology.

I was surprised, however, when I reviewed the definitions. The lexicographers had clearly missed several opportunities to capture the big data zeitgeist. As a certified word nerd, it is my sworn duty to aid them. Herewith is an abridged list of new words and their official definitions, supplemented by my additional definitions in italics.

  • Aha moment: a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension; after that first pilot project when you begin to realize the potential
  • Bucket list: a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying; strong use cases for big data
  • Cloud computing: the practice of storing regularly used computer data on multiple servers that can be accessed through the Internet; okay, M-W, you nailed this one, but come on! You add “cloud computing” but not “big data”?
  • Earworm: a song or melody that keeps repeating in one's mind; interminable references to “the 3 V’s” or incessant blog posts on “What is ‘big data’?” See, we told you that you should have added “big data” to your little reference book!
  • F-bomb: the word f*&% [My censorship, not Merriam-Webster’s]—used metaphorically as a euphemism; an utterance often sprinkled liberally throughout the language of Pig coders
  • Game changer: a newly introduced element or factor that changes an existing situation or activity in a significant way; alright, alright – I’ll toss you another bone on this one. But again, why no ancillary note “See ‘big data’”? Huh?
  • Gassed: drunk; drained of energy; the state of your organization’s strategic plans if they don't include big data initiatives
  • Man cave: a room or space (as in a basement) designed according to the taste of the man of the house to be used as his personal area for hobbies and leisure activities; a small cubicle for Hadoop programmers littered with empty Red Bull or RockStar cans and either a) one ginormous computer monitor, or b) multiple oversized monitors, at least one of which has a live session of World of Warcraft
  • Mash-up: something created by combining elements from two or more sources: as a) a piece of music created by digitally overlaying an instrumental track with a vocal track from a different recording; b) a movie or video having characters or situations from other sources; c) a Web service or application that integrates data and functionalities from various online sources; once more, Merriam-Webster, I’ll cut you some slack. Good definition. But as an example, couldn’t you have listed the combining of structured and unstructured data? Or the integration of data “in motion” with data “at rest”?
  • Underwater: 1) lying, growing, worn, performed, or operating below the surface of the water; 2) being below the waterline of a ship; 3) having, relating to, or being a mortgage loan for which more is owed than the property securing the loan is worth; 4) being submerged beneath a deluge of data; 5) old technology that isn't delivering on ROI

That's it–I'm gassed. What other words do you think should have a big data definition appended to them?

Hadoop, Big Data