Word of the Year

RonButters at AOL.COM RonButters at AOL.COM
Tue Jan 8 22:02:33 UTC 2002

'9-11' Voted America's 'Word of the Year' for 2001

By Andrew Quinn

SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 4) - After a tumultuous 12 months, American linguist
experts agreed Friday that 2001's "word of the year" was actually a number --
9-11, shorthand for the Sept. 11 attacks.

The American Dialect Society, in an annual ritual marking the newest words,
phrases and expressions to enter American English over the past year, waved
away contenders ranging from "assoline" to "second-hand speech" to hand the
crown to "9-11" which -- before the hijacked aircraft attacks on the World
Trade Center and Pentagon -- was just another date.

"In America it is now the way of referring to the most horrendous event of
the century," said Prof. Robert Stockwell of the University of California,
Los Angeles.

Previous words of the year selected by the Dialect Society have ranged from
the obscure (1991's "bushlips", referring to insincere political rhetoric) to
the omnipresent (1999's "Y2K", referring to the new millennium).

But this year's candidates were clearly colored by the Sept. 11 terror
attacks on New York and Washington, which have launched countless new terms
into the nation's linguistic pool.

"Daisy cutter," military shorthand for a powerful U.S. bomb used in the war
in Afghanistan, was voted the "most euphemistic" new word while "shoe-icide
bomber," a reference to a man who allegedly sought to bring down an aircraft
with explosives hidden in his sneakers, was dubbed "most creative."

Other candidates mentioned at Friday's meeting in San Francisco included
"Osamaniac," for women sexually attracted to militant Islamic leader Osama
bin Laden, "theoterrorism", referring to attacks on civilians for religious
purposes, and "women of cover" for Muslim women who wear traditional dress.

Wayne Glowka, an English professor at Georgia College and State University
and head of the Dialect Society's new words committee, said the media has
become a primary conduit for new words entering the language.

"When CNN broadcasts a word, millions of people hear it," he said. "People
then begin using it to show that they are part of the group."


Not all of the words debated at Friday's meeting carried grim connotations of
America's "war on terrorism" -- although the linguistic echo of Sept. 11 was
hard to ignore.

Along with "weaponize," nominated as a word "most likely to succeed" after
its repeated use in reference to anthrax attacks in the United States, some
dialect experts also suggested "weapons-grade" as a new catch-all

"Weapons-grade salsa would mean really hot," said Allan Metcalf, the
society's executive secretary and a member of the English Department at
MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Illinois.

"Assoline" -- meaning fuel made from methane -- was voted as the year's "most
outrageous" word while "second-hand speech" was given the nod as a useful
term for referring to the din of strangers talking on cellphones.

The experts agreed the most unnecessary word or phrase of the year was
"impeachment nostalgia," meaning a longing for the superficial news of the
Clinton era.

President Bush, who may have liked last year's new word winner "chad," was
cited as the source for one of this year's candidates -- "misunderestimate"
-- although it failed to garner sufficient votes to make the slate.

The term "9-11" presented some confusion as dialect specialists disagreed on
whether it was pronounced "Nine-Eleven," "Nine One One" or simply "September

But most agreed it should be named the word of the year, outstripping even
the "ground zero" reference to the World Trade Center ruins as a clear and
simple addition to the national vocabulary that will stand the test of time.

"It is going to be like the 4th of July or Pearl Harbor," Glowka said.

Reuters 22:45 01-04-02

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