Words of the Year 2001: Newsletter report

AAllan at AOL.COM AAllan at AOL.COM
Fri Jan 25 14:59:19 UTC 2002

This is the report that will go in the ADS newsletter. - Allan Metcalf


Dominating the American Dialect Society choices for words of the year 2001
were words for the terrorist attacks of September 11, as the attacks
themselves dominated the conversation of Americans after that date.

In San Francisco January 4, members and friends of the society voted "9-11"
or "September 11" in its various written and spoken forms--including "9/11,"
"9.11," "nine-one-one" and "nine-eleven"--as the word (or in this case,
expression) of the year. In the final show of hands there were 29 votes for
"9-11," 10 for "burka," the garment worn by Muslim women in Afghanistan and
elsewhere; 5 for "homeland" as in "homeland security"; 4 for "theoterrorism,"
attacks on civilians for a religious purpose; 4 for "misunderestimate,"
President Bush's coinage; and 2 for "ground zero," the site of the collapsed
World Trade Towers after the attack.

Since 1990, the society has chosen words of the year at its annual meeting.
They are words that are new or newly prominent, reflecting the concerns and
conversations of speakers of American English during the preceding year. All
voting is open by show of hands, and participants are invited to speak for or
against particular choices before the vote.

In the eight categories leading to the final vote on words of the year,
post-9-11 terms were likewise dominant. These were the winners, with
approximate votes for each:

1. Most outrageous: "assoline" (44) methane used as fuel. Other candidates:
"burka blue" (11) the color of the head-to-toe garment worn by some Afghan
women. Preliminary vote "assoline" (23), "burka blue" (15), "Osamaniac" (10)
woman sexually attracted to Osama bin Laden, "cuddle puddle" (3) pile of
Ecstasy users on the floor.

2. Most euphemistic: "daisy cutter" (45) large bomb that explodes a few feet
above the ground. Others: "women of cover" (9) Bushism for Muslim women who
wear traditional dress, "sneakers-up" (1) a dot-com that goes belly-up.

3. Most likely to succeed: "9-11" (50). Others: "weaponize" (10) adapt
anthrax, shoes, etc. for use as a weapon, "ground zero" (5) site of the
collapsed World Trade Center towers, "pop-under" (3) Internet ad appearing
under the main browser window.

4. Most useful (tie): "facial profiling" (29) scanning video "faceprints" to
identify terrorists and criminals, and "second-hand speech" (28) cell phone
conversations heard by others in public places. Others in preliminary votes:
"linguistic profiling" (15) using language clues to identify a person's
ethnicity and other characteristics, "theoterrorism" (9), "weapons-grade" (4)
potent as in weapons-grade salsa, "annoyicon" (3) logo in bottom corner of a
TV screen, "overconnectedness" (3) being connected everywhere all the time,
"debris surge" or "debris storm" (1) spread of debris from a collapsing
building, "to table" (1) to staff an informational table.

5. Most creative: "shuicide bomber" (26) terrorist with bomb in shoes.
Others: "orthorexia nervosa" (11) obsession with eating the right foods,
"second-hand speech" (8), "_so_ September 10" (5) petty or oblivious to
possible danger, "Netwallah" (3) website administrator, "assoline" (1).

6. Most unnecessary: "impeachment nostalgia" (27) longing for the superficial
news of the Clinton era. Others: "the terrorists will have already won if--"
(15), "E.C." (15) emotionally correct as in properly responding to tragedy.
Preliminary vote "desk rage" (2) tantrum in the office.

7. Least likely to succeed: "Osamaniac" (50). Others: "dot-orging" (4)
changing employment from a dot-com to a nonprofit dot-org, "interruptible"
(0) an energy customer allowing interruption of service for a lower rate.

There was one additional special category this year:

8. Most inspirational: "Let's roll!" (unanimous) the words of Todd Beamer on
United Flight 93 before the attack that foiled the hijackers on September 11,
words later repeated by President Bush and put into a song by Neil Young.

The next words of the year vote, for the year 2002, will take place in
Atlanta January 3, 2003, at the society's annual meeting. Nominations may be
sent to the chair of the society's New Words Committee, Professor Wayne
Glowka, Department of English and Speech, Georgia College and State
University, Milledgeville Georgia 31061, wglowka at mail.gcsu.edu.

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