It's Official New words come into our language constantly, but it can take years for these words (often thought to be faddish or jargon) to be added to a dictionary -- to become official.

A recent issue of Copy Editor (a newsletter for the publishing profession) explored some of the new words added to the latest editions of four college dictionaries. While cyberspeak was responsible for many of the new words in the new dictionaries, the shopping center industry supplied a few, too.

According to Copy Editor, Random House Webster's College Dictionary has added both "food court" and "strip mall" to the new edition.

food court, n. a space, as in a shopping mall, with a concentration of fast-food stalls and usually a common eating area.

strip mall, n. a retail complex consisting of stores or restaurants in adjacent spaces in one long building, typically having a narrow parking area directly in front of the stores.

I was surprised that "food court" was not already a part of this dictionary. I think the food court has proven itself as an entity with staying power.

On the other hand, I don't like "strip mall." I prefer strip center; although it, too, can be vague because of the growing number of strip center configurations. In most cases, "strip center" requires further description of the center's size, location and tenant mix for clarity.

Another dictionary, The American Heritage College Dictionary, Third Edition, has given credence to "edutainment."

edutainment, n. 1. the act of learning through a medium that both educates and entertains. 2. any of various media, such as computer software, that educate and entertain.

While the shopping center/retail industry can't take direct responsibility for creating this word (I think the entertainment industry probably gets the credit), the industry has embraced it wholeheartedly. The addition of edutainment in stores and shopping centers certainly has been a priority for the last several years. (There was no indication as to whether "eatertainment" would be added to the dictionary anytime soon.)

There is a certain power and responsibility (as well as an undeniable pride) that comes in creating words that infiltrate all parts of society. These words are industry jargon no more, and their inclusion in the new editions of the various dictionaries is further proof that the shopping center industry's legacy extends well beyond bricks and mortar.