Word of the Decade Nominations Open for 2000-2009

Victor aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 17 22:13:18 UTC 2009

Here's a word that could rival the verb "to google". Wiki suggests the
origins of /blog/:
The term "weblog" was coined by Jorn Barger on 17 December 1997. The
short form, "blog," was coined by Peter Merholz, who jokingly broke the
word weblog into the phrase we blog in the sidebar of his blog
Peterme.com in April or May of 1999. Shortly thereafter, Evan Williams
at Pyra Labs used "blog" as both a noun and verb ("to blog," meaning "to
edit one's weblog or to post to one's weblog") and devised the term
"blogger" in connection with Pyra Labs' Blogger product, leading to the
popularization of the terms.

There is a bit of a problem with this statement, as Dictionary.com has a
different timeline:
1998, short for weblog (which is attested from 1994, though not in the
sense 'online journal'), from (World Wide)Web + log.

Irrespectively of the exact date of origin, it is fair to say that
"blog" as both a noun and a verb has really taken off in the last decade
(specifically, since 2000). By comparison, "zine", which was popular in
late 1990s and early 2000, has more or less receded to obscurity. More
importantly "blogger" has evolved into a subtribe of journalist (along
with the more "traditional" blogger images, making up conspiracy
theories, wearing dirty pajamas, with stale pizza next to the computer).
In fact, blogging has been recognized as a legitimate journalistic
activity, with all the privileges attached (once  certain hurdle is
cleared) by US courts.

Is there another word, aside from these four (google (v), blog (n), blog
(v), blogger, plus other derivatives, such as blogging and googling)
that has penetrated not just popular culture in the US, but global
culture at all levels and in many languages? Is there any reason not to
have all of these as nominees?

I have a list of a few longshots as well.

1. viral--this spread because of both cell phones and computers.
Good-bye chain mail, hello viral video.
2. troll--two meanings: a. patent troll, b. blog troll; plus there are
multiple verbs as well (although there is a debate as to whether one of
the should be "to troll" or "to trawl"--a bonus eggcorn!)
3. twitter--while more recent and less pervasive than google, this was
turned into a verb right away
4. cyberterrorism--I'd be surprised if this was not used thirty years
ago in some obscure sci-fi novel
5. pod, podcast--Apple, unlike Google, try to sue the usage out of
existence, except in Apple-related context. A tribute to their staying
power that Apple was not successful
6. Skype--has become a generic term for VoIP calling (as a verb),
although still closely connected to the trademark--while the speaker may
use "to skype" in a generic sense (to make a VoIP call), the listener,
more often than not, will understand it literally if no other context is

Now, IMO all of these pale next to "blog", but here they are. Another
point is that, other than "to twitter", the origins of these are quite
diffuse and, although they can all be pegged to a decade, pinning them
to a specific year would be much harder.


PS: I was not seriously nominating "sexting", as the word is fairly
recent and has had limited use.

PPS: I initially had "wonk" and "wonkiness" on the list, but removed
them. Still, some details might be of interest. It's clear that "policy
wonk" has been in use for at least 20 years. Calvin Trillin used it in
"Floater" in 1980, but had to explain it; David Brooks had it in a
column title in the late 1980s. The word clearly had fairly narrow use
prior to that or it would not have appeared as a nonsense word in a
linguistics text:

John Jay Osborn had to explain the meaning in his 1981 novel The Man who
owned New York (p. 125)
"Experimental Psycholinguistics" (1975, p. 62) uses the "introverted
student" meaning as an example. Peter Prescott also had to define the
word in 1974. In 1969, and earlier, the use has been unambiguously
narrow: "In current use, however, "wonk" is a vague, all-inclusive term,
closely akin to the terms "wog" and "wop," which are sometimes used at
Eastern prep schools." (Clay Felker, The power game, p. 122, 1969)
"Wonk" as expert appears to be a late 1980s development.

"Wonkiness" shows up in 1953 Thesaurus of American Slang as a synonym
for "bewilderment, confusion, muddle". In 1959 play "Springtime for
Henry", it shows up in another odd context, "You see, wonkiness in a
carburettor is a very tricky thing. Who makes your carburettors?"
Whatever this means, the same meaning for auto-parts can still be found
in the 1990s. But there is an odd meaning for "wonk" from a 1967 slang
dictionary: "since ca. 1930, predominantly a junior midshipman". This
actually makes sense, but the use predates any that other dictionaries
cite by 25 years. I am going by Google Books, so I don't have the
precise source.

Victor wrote:
> Wouldn't that be "to txt"? And what about it's more recent cousin "to
> sext"? Sexting apparently is all the rage, prompting news programs to
> express outrage and concern.
>     VS-)
> Erik Hoover wrote:
>> I nominate the verb "to text."

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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