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Friday, January 12, 2007

2006 Word of the Year



The 2006 results (PDF) from the American Dialect Society are out:


Word of the Year

WINNER

to pluto / be plutoed: to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet.

RUNNER-UP

macaca / macaca moment: treating an American citizen as an alien — a reference to a campaign remark by former Virginia Sen. George Allen that some say marked the beginning of the end for his re-election hopes.

OTHERS

prohibited liquids: fluids that cannot be transported by passengers on airplanes; “bodily excretions of a disgusting nature.”

surge: a large, but brief, increase in troop strength.

murse: man’s purse.


Most Useful

WINNER

climate canary: an organism or species whose poor health or declining numbers hint at a larger environmental catastrophe on the horizon.

RUNNER-UP

data Valdez: an accidental release of a large quantity of private or privileged information. Named after the 1989 oil spill by the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

OTHERS

flog: a fake blog created by a corporation to promote a product or a television show.

boomeritis: afflictions or injuries of Baby Boomers, caused by their age.

sharrow: an arrow-like design painted on a roadway to mark a bicycling route.


Most Creative

WINNER

lactard: a person who is lactose-intolerant.

RUNNER-UP

snowclone: an expression whose structure is borrowed to create new, similar expressions. Examples: X is the new Y (“blue is the new black”) and X is dead; long live X! (“the king is dead; long live the king!”).

OTHERS

to julie: to organize an event. Also as a noun. From Julie McCoy, the character of cruise director on the television show The Love Boat, which ran from 1977 to 1986.

Fed-Ex: nickname for K-Fed, a.k.a Kevin Federline, soon-to-be ex-husband of Britney Spears.


Most Unnecessary

WINNER

SuriKat: the supposed nickname of the baby girl of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

RUNNER-UP

the decider: with the definite article, a person who makes decisions for other decisionmakers, as spoken by President George W. Bush.

OTHER

Fox lips: lips colored and lined with makeup to seem more prominent, said of female anchors on Fox News.


Most Outrageous

WINNER

Cambodian accessory: Angelina Jolie’s adopted child, who is Cambodian.

RUNNER-UP

sudden jihad syndrome: an outburst of violence from a seemingly stable and normal Muslim.

OTHERS

macaca: an American citizen treated as an alien.

firecrotch: a person with red pubic hair.

tramp stamp: a tattoo on a woman’s upper bottom (or lower back).


Most Euphemistic

WINNER

waterboarding: an interrogation technique in which the subject is immobilized and doused with water to simulate drowning; reported to be used by U.S. interrogators against terrorism detainees.

RUNNER-UP

surge: a large, but brief, increase in troop strength.

OTHERS

lancing: the forced public outing of a closeted gay celebrity, after ‘N Sync singer Lance Bass.

lyric malfunction: obscenities scrubbed from the Rolling Stones’ Super Bowl performance.


Most Likely to Succeed

WINNER

YouTube: as a verb, to use the YouTube web site or to have a video of one’s self be posted on the site.

RUNNER-UP

carbon: in combining forms about reducing waste emissions, used as shorthand for air pollution.

OTHERS

m-, man-, men- as “man-fixes” in compounds and blends such as moobs, manboobs, murse, man purse, mancation, man crush, manmaries, menaissance, etc.

macaca moment: an ethnic or racial gaffe caught on video.

the decider: with the definite article, a person who makes decisions for other decisionmakers, as spoken by President George W. Bush.


Least Likely to Succeed

WINNER

grup: a Gen-Xer who does not act his or her age.

RUNNER-UP

pwn: to “own” someone; to defeat, beat, or best someone. From mis-typing in online gaming.

OTHER

stay the course: to continue an action or undertaking despite it being less successful than desired.


New Category: Pluto-Related Words

WINNER

to be plutoed, to pluto: to be demoted or devalued.

RUNNER-UP

dwarf planet: new International Astronomical Union designation for Pluto and other not-quite-planetary bodies in the solar system.

OTHERS

pluton: originally chosen by the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union as a category for trans-Neptunian objects, like Pluto, that did not warrant designation as true planets. However, the term was already in use in geology to refer to a large mass of intrusive igneous rock believed to have solidified deep within the earth. Another candidate name was plutonoid.

small solar system body (SSSB): object in the solar system that is neither a planet nor a dwarf planet (e.g., a comet or small asteroid).


Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item” — not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year, in the manner of Time magazine’s Person of the Year.

Founded in 1889, the American Dialect Society (ADS) is dedicated to the study of the English language in North America, and of other languages, or dialects of other languages, influencing it or influenced by it. ADS members are linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, historians, grammarians, academics, editors, writers, and independent scholars in the fields of English, foreign languages, and other disciplines. The society also publishes the quarterly journal, American Speech.

Not all words chosen for a particular year are destined to become permanent additions to the vocabulary. Y2K in 1999 and chad in 2000 are examples of prominent terms that faded quickly. An explanation of which words are likely to succeed may be found in Predicting New Words: The Secrets of Their Success by Allan Metcalf, published in 2002 by Houghton Mifflin.

The American Dialect Society began choosing Words of the Year in 1990. A full account of the previous choices may be found on the American Dialect Society's website.

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