Sunday Morning

Paul McFedries mailinglists at LOGOPHILIA.COM
Mon Jan 6 22:49:01 UTC 2003

Here's the transcript.



They say one picture is worth a thousand words, so could a four-word phrase
possibly sum up one full year? Our Mark Strassmann has just spent some time
with the experts who say the answer, in a word, is yes.

(Footage of building exterior)

Unidentified Woman #1: Coordinates differ from commutatives in having noun
phrases with equal syntactic status.

(Footage of registration sign; person filling out form; name cards being
placed on table)

Unidentified Man #1: As a species of analogical figure, a simile showed
several characteristics which are...


What is your area of expertise?

Unidentified Man #2: Logical plurals, logical conjunction.

Unidentified Woman #2: How simile is different from metaphor basically on a
cognitive level. Unidentified Man #3: Lexical semantics, computational

(Footage of people at seminar)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) If you want to learn what's in a word, this is the
group to ask.

Unidentified Woman #3: Mimetics are different from non-mimetic words in that
they do no bare definable meanings.

Unidentified Woman #1: They function as a single, unsplittable constituent
and trigger obligatory plural verb agreement...

(Footage of people at seminar)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) If it all sounds Greek to you, these professional
wordsmiths get it...

Unidentified Woman #1: (Voiceover) well as adverbial particles, aspect
markers and clausal conjunctions.

(Footage of people at seminar)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) And once a year, they re-emerge from the far-flung
back roads of linguistics to share it.

Unidentified Woman #4: A topic that I'm interested in, which is what happens
when people who speak completely non-mutually intelligible languages who
come together over a period of time.

(Footage of people at seminar; form)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) Eight hundred members of the Linguistic Society of
America gathered this past week in Atlanta, in part to choose a word that
says it all about an entire year.

Unidentified Woman #5: Iraqnaphobia.

Unidentified Man #4: What's that?

Unidentified Woman #5: It's an unusually strong fear of Iraq.

(Footage of people at seminar)

Professor WAYNE GLOWKA: Several people have asked that Google be on the

(Footage of Glowka speaking at seminar)

Prof. GLOWKA: Sometimes the words just jump out at you. And--and, you know,
there--there are thousands, millions of things going on in American life
every single day, but somehow one single theme, one single word will just
rise to the top. It's...

(Footage of Glowka; forms; Glowka and others at seminar)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) Wayne Glowka, normally a professor of medieval
literature, is here looking for more recent classics. He's chairman of the
Word of the Year committee.

Prof. GLOWKA: Anything else that's outrageous...

Unidentified Woman #6: How about Botox Party?

Prof. GLOWKA: Botox Party is a fairly outrageous thing it seems to me. I'm
really, really fond of grid butt, which comes from an advertisement I think
sent to me by The Agios, marks left on buttocks by fishnet pantyhose...

(Footage of Glowka and others at seminar)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) The word can be funny...

Unidentified Woman #7: 'My big, fat' blank, based on "My Big Fat Greek
Wedding," so...

(Footage of people at seminar)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) ...or serious...

Unidentified Woman #8: I want to speak in--in favor of Amber Alert, because
I think...

(Footage of people at seminar)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) or newly popular...

Prof. GLOWKA: Dialrhea, a tendency of a cell phone to make a call when left
in your pocket or your bag with the keypad unlocked.

(Footage of people at seminar)

Prof. GLOWKA: It's that ultimately haiku. It--it tells us what was probably
the most important thing we were focused on. Sometimes we miss, I'll admit,
but sometimes I think we really do hit--hit that nail right on the head.

(Footage of World Trade Center tragedy; graphic of '9/11'; mom at soccer
game; graphic of words 'Soccer Mom'; fireworks; graphic of 'Y2K'; dimpled
ballots; graphic of word 'Chad')

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) For 2001, the obvious choice was '9/11.' There was
'soccer mom' in 1996; 'Y2K' for 1999; for 2000, 'chad 'won in a linguist

(Footage of Saddam Hussein and soldiers; graphic of words 'Mother of

Professor ALLAN METCALF (Executive Secretary, American Dialect Society):
(Voiceover) The strong one back in 1991 was 'Mother of all,' a phrase that
Saddam Hussein used when he was talking about the mother of all battles.

(Footage of Metcalf; report)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) Professor Alan Metcalf, the executive secretary of
the American Dialect Society, created this annual award. He admits not all
winning words will stick.

Prof. METCALF: Actually, our first choice of word of the year in 1990 was
'Bushlips,' which referred to the older George Bush promise no new taxes.

(Footage of former President George Bush)

President GEORGE BUSH: (From 1988) Read my lips: 'No new taxes.'

(Footage of 1988 Republican National Convention; President George W. Bush)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) Bushlips, meaning to break a political promise,
faded fast. A decade later, this President Bush shows a knack for creating
new words...

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Misunderestimate or--excuse me, underestimate...

(Footage of President Bush)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) ...a sort of presidential jabberwocky...

Pres. BUSH: Just making sure you were paying attention. You--you were.

STRASSMANN: So George W. Bush for you is good for business.

Prof. METCALF: Wonderful, yes.

(Footage of coal mine rescue; Enron logo; Martha Stewart; John Walker Lindh;
sniper crime scene; John Geoghan; Amber Alert highway sign; Cardinal Bernard
Law at Mass

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) Like all years, 2002 was a kaleidoscope of human
events. But of all its many issues and moments, no one dominated.

In a slower year like this, is it harder or more challenging or more fun
to--to come up with the right word?

Prof. GLOWKA: You know, it's certainly more challenging. It might be fun
because the word of the year may just end up being a surprise.

Unidentified Man #5: Now we come to our most solemn and profound charge: the
word or phrase of the year.

(Footage of people at seminar)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) Some of this year's nominees...

Unidentified Man #6: 'Bushism.'

Prof. METCALF: 'Regime change,"Amber Alert,"Google...'

Unidentified Man #7: I strongly support 'weapons of mass destruction.'

Prof. METCALF: All who favor 'weapons of mass destruction,' raise your hand.

(Footage of people at seminar)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) In a close vote, 'weapons of mass destruction'
carried the day.

Secretary DONALD RUMSFELD (Defense Department): ...weapons of mass

Secretary COLIN POWELL (State Department): ...weapons of mass destruction.

Pres. BUSH: ...weapons of mass destruction.

(Footage of Strassmann, Glowka and Metcalf)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) To these linguists, it's a clunky phrase.

Prof. GLOWKA: But it is very long, and there--there certainly must be
something that could encapsulate the idea with fewer syllables, but you
never know.

STRASSMANN: So a--a fru--a frustrating phrase and a frustrating conclusion
to a somewhat frustrating year?

Prof. METCALF: Yes.

Prof. GLOWKA: I--I believe so. Yes.

(Footage of New York Times Square 2003 celebration)

STRASSMANN: (Voiceover) But this is now 2003, five days into a new year of
endless linguistic possibility.

Unidentified Woman #1: (Voiceover) Coordinates differ from commutatives in
having noun phrases with equal syntactic status, same thematic role case and
so on, which form...

More information about the Ads-l mailing list