Trend Watch


Is deswell really a word? Not according to Charles Barkley ...


Lookups spiked on May 11, 2015.


Discussion of Washington Wizards point guard John Wall's hand injury during a segment of NBA on TNT included a dispute about whether deswell is a word. Kenny Smith said that it will be "interesting to see if John Wall's hand can deswell over the next couple of days,” to which Charles Barkley replied, "First of all, deswell is not a word." Shaquille O'Neal joked, "I bet you can't spell it," and Barkley shot back with "'Cause it's not a word!"

This sent TNT staff and many others to the dictionary to check. It turns out that deswell is indeed an entry in the large Merriam-Webster Unabridged dictionary, with the definitions "to reduce swelling of (something, such as the fiber of a textile) usually by abstraction of water" and "to become contracted—used especially of colloids." Kenny Smith issued a celebratory tweet with the dictionary definition.

But the wording of the definition shows the context in which this rare word is most often used: the reduction of swelling of fibers and gels. In a sense, both Smith and Barkley are correct: deswell is a word, but there is little evidence that it is used to mean "to reduce the swelling of an injured body part."

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