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Merriam-Webster Adds 'Turducken,' 'Pho,' 'Freegan,' and 'Poutine'

Rachel Tepper Paley
May 20, 2014

Photo credit: Merriam-Webster

Ah, the dictionary. Useful when cheating at Scrabble, and an excellent indicator of which ideas, behaviors, and yes, dishes could stand the test of time. 

Well, good news, turducken: You’re here to stay.

"Turducken" and several other culinary terms are among the 150 new entries to Merriam-Webster’s 2014 edition, although we’re a bit surprised some hadn’t already made the cut. The word “turducken,” for instance, dates at least back to 1982, when it appeared in a Newsweek article: “[When] sliced, you have three birds and a rainbow of stuffings.” The word ”poutine,” referring to the ugly-but-delicious French Canadian snack and also just added, dates to the same year.

The oldest food term (and perhaps the most difficult to pronounce) of the bunch is “pho,” the English spelling of the Vietnamese noodle soup dish, which has been around since 1935. It first appeared in the cookbook “Recipes of All Nations,” published that year.

And the youngest is “freegan,” which first cropped up in 2006 (though it’s more recently been the subject of controversy). That year, pundit Tucker Carlson invited Madeline Nelson, a self-professed freegan, to discuss her lifestyle on his MSNBC program.

"I would say it’s a political choice as much as anything else," Nelson said, according to a transcript. “We’re at a point in our society where we’re throwing out tremendous amounts of perfectly usable food, clothing, electronics, et cetera, that a group of us think that it’s a perfectly rational choice to save that, to salvage that.”

Well, welcome to the dictionary, new food words. Better late than never. Here are the major culinary terms added this year:

tur·duck·en (tər-ˈdə-kən): a boneless chicken stuffed into a boneless duck stuffed into a boneless turkey

pho (ˈfə, ˈfō): a soup made of beef or chicken broth and rice noodles

pou·tine (pü-ˈtēn): a dish of French fries covered with brown gravy and cheese curds

free·gan (ˈfrē-gən): an activist who scavenges for free food (as in waste receptacles at stores and restaurants) as a means of reducing consumption of resources