Grass station, locavore and w00t: we need a better word of the year for 2007

Dennis Baron debaron at UIUC.EDU
Fri Dec 14 18:53:01 UTC 2007

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Grass station, locavore and w00t: we need a better word of the year  
for 2007

The Chanukah candles have all burned out, the sun is setting earlier  
each day, and the weather is wreaking havoc with vacation plans.  
These signs of the waning year tell us that once again it’s time for  
the year-end word wrap. Just as reporters look back on the year's big  
stories, and photo editors pick the image that best captures the  
spirit of the year gone by, lexicographers see the winter solstice as  
the time to choose the Word of the Year, or the WOTY, as they like to  
acronymize it.

Dictionaries almost never make news, but announcing the word of the  
year tends to draw the attention of reporters, and news stories move  
product. So Webster’s New World Dictionary got a jump on WOTY season  
by announcing its word of the year choice, grass station, at the end  
of October. Critics immediately complained that there were still two  
whole months left in the year, plenty of time for something better to  
turn up. Plus grass stations, places to fill the tanks of biofuel- 
powered automobiles, don’t even exist yet – they’re still in the  
realm of science fiction. Nonetheless, the choice represents an  
improvement over last year’s winner, crackberry, ‘a person who uses a  
Blackberry or other hand-held phone/computer/pda obsessively.’

Not to be outdone in their haste to make headlines and promote  
greener vocabulary, in November the word watchers at the Oxford  
American Dictionary chose locavore as their word of the year, proving  
once again Dr. Johnson’s claim that lexicographers really are but  
harmless drudges....

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Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

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