[Lexicog] Word of the year

Fritz Goerling Fritz_Goerling at SIL.ORG
Mon Dec 17 16:40:10 UTC 2007

The word of the year "w00t"* chosen by Merriam-Webster is a very interesting
one (see the article below). Food for thought - sociologically speaking! In
other countries (like Germany) every year a "word of the year" and an
"unword of the year" is chosen. Germany's word of the year 2007
"Bundestrojaner" (literal translation: 'Federal Trojan', also called in a
less threatening way "remote forensic software," is a word used for
spyware), also chosen from new technology, is sociologically interesting,
too. Do other countries have these contests for "word of the year" and which
words were chosen?

Fritz Goerling

*Where does 'w00t' come from? Opinions are divided.


Merriam-Webster's Word of '07: 'W00t'


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) - Expect cheers among hardcore online game
enthusiasts when they learn Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year. Or, more
accurately, expect them to "w00t." "W00t," a hybrid of letters and numbers
used by gamers as an exclamation of happiness or triumph, topped all other
terms in the Springfield-based dictionary publisher's online poll for the
word that best sums up 2007.

Merriam-Webster's president, John Morse, said "w00t" was an ideal choice
because it blends whimsy and new technology.

"It shows a really interesting thing that's going on in language. It's a
term that's arrived only because we're now communicating electronically with
each other," Morse said.

Gamers commonly substitute numbers and symbols for the letters they
resemble, Morse says, creating what they call "l33t speak" - that's "leet"
when spoken, short for "elite" to the rest of the world.

For technophobes, the word also is familiar from the 1990 movie "Pretty
Woman," in which Julia Roberts startles her date's upper-crust friends with
a hearty "Woot, woot, woot!" at a polo match.

Purists of "l33t speak" often substitute a "7" for the final "t," expressing
a "w007" of victory - an "in your face" of sorts - when they defeat an
online gaming opponent.

"W00t" was among 20 nominees in a list of the most-searched words in
Merriam-Webster's online dictionary and most frequently submitted terms from
users of its "open dictionary."

The choice did not make Allan Metcalf, executive secretary of the American
Dialect Society, say "w00t."

"It's amusing, but it's limited to a small community and unlikely to spread
and unlikely to last," said Metcalf, an English professor at MacMurray
College in Jacksonville, Ill.

The 2006 pick, "truthiness," also has its roots in pop culture. It was
popularized by Comedy Central satirical political commentator Stephen

Some also-rans in the 2007 list: the use of "facebook" as a verb to signify
using the Web site by that name; nuanced terms such as "quixotic,"
"hypocrite" and "conundrum"; and "blamestorm," a meeting in which mistakes
are aired, fingers are pointed and much discomfort is had by all.


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