Staycations Are Here To Stay! The Dictionary Says So!

For BookSmack!, one of LJ‘s e-newsletters, I spent some time recently pulling together a roundup of materials that I thought would be useful and rewarding for people either considering or actually undertaking a "staycation."  (Here’s the piece.) 

I had mixed feelings about the term "staycation" itself, but figured that as long as we’re in a tough economy and more and more workers are without employment, the staycation concept would be staying around, as I think I wrote in the piece.  And, regardless of economic challenges, there’s a lot to be said for the concept of a staycation. 

Well, as of yesterday, it’s no longer a concept. No further need for its enclosure in quotation marks. Merriam- Webster has announced that staycation is among the 2009 additions to its dictionary. It’s a genuine word! 

Let’s remind ourselves that Merriam-Webster is not a prognosticator about our economy!  

But as a prognosticator about our language?  What do you think?  Other chamber-of-commerce-driven portmanteau words have become part and parcel of our lifestyles:  we eat brunch and stay at motels without thinking that restaurants needing to drum up business or  new-fangled hotels offering parking, and parking-lot-access to their rooms, were behind those words ages ago. Before those words developed a patina from exposure, they must have seemed a bit garish too, parvenus on the scene.

I don’t know why I’m surprised by the quickness with which Merriam-Webster has welcomed staycation. Maybe it’s because they’ve also taken in frenemy as a word this year, so long after it tripped off the tongues of those Sex and the City women (Merriam-Webster dates it back to 1977). I didn’t know it was still a part of the zeitgeist — now there’s a portmanteau word to fling around! Isn’t that the crux of the matter?  

How much staying power does a word need before it gets into the dictionary?

Margaret Heilbrun About Margaret Heilbrun

Margaret Heilbrun is a former Senior Editor, Library Journal Book Review.