Saturday, December 15, 2007


When Stephen Colbert’s wonderful term, “truthiness,” was named Word of the Year in 2005, it reminded us that we are being hit from all sides by words and phrases related to technology, politics, movies and television shows, youth culture, etc. And boy, are these piling up fast!

Now Merriam-Webster OnLine has just announced the 2007 Word of the Year is an acronym that comes from competitive online gaming forums. Written in “l33t” (“Leet” or “elite” speak) coined by die-hard techies (and hackers), the choice of the word shows all things automated are impacting our language. So here it is, the acronym for “we owned the other team”--w00t. w00t! is used when you or your team win. I guess yay! just doesn’t cut it anymore. So w00t can celebrate its victory with a loud, heartfelt “w00t!” There is a sort of poetic justice that the winning word is a word to celebrate winning.

Here are the runners-up for Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year. At least I’ve heard or read most of them! 8-)

facebook. This means that you became a member of or looked up the profile of or sent a message to someone on

conundrum. Conundrum has been around since 1645. It means a difficult problem or puzzle. It can also be a riddle that must be answered with a pun.

quixotic. Quixotic comes from the main character in Cervantes’ 1718 novel, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, Don Quixote. You know, the guy with the impossible dream. Maybe we could use more of them (dreamers and dreams!).

blamestorm. Blamestorming. How many of us have been subject to the whims of a boss or group of managers and administrators who sit around and delegate blame? Guilt by committee. Sometimes it feels as though passing the buck is a national pastime!

sardoodledom . The playwright George Bernard Shaw coined this term to criticize fellow writer Victorien Sardou’s work. Shaw combined Sardou’s name with the word “doodle” and came up with a word to mean a melodramatic play with a contrived plot and stereotypical characters. I love the sound of this word!

apathetic. In 1744, someone came up with this synonym for indifference. Unfortunately, we have cause to use it far too often.

Pecksniffian. This is another word that’s fun to say. Seth Pecksniff, a character in Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, the inspiration for this term, was hypocritical in an unpleasantly charming way. Martin Chuzzlewit came out in 1844, but the term didn’t come into use until 1849.

hypocrite. And speaking of hypocritical, the word hypocrite dates back to the 13th century.

charlatan. Why do all of these all of these words bring up images of yukky people? Charlatan, used since 1618, means quack, fraud, thimblerigger, snake oil salesman. Think of the opening scene in The Music Man.

In related news, the Dec. 17, 2007 issue of People magazine tells us that the already massive Oxford English Dictionary has added some 2,500 new words and phrases. These include:

Omigod--“Expr. Astonishment or shock, pain of anger.” When I was a kid, saying this would get us seriously smacked. Even as I typed it, I felt the righteous hand of my mother whacking me upside the head.

Crapola--“Material of poor quality, rubbish; nonsense.” What a perfect way to describe a lot of the imported toys that have made their way into the American market!

Bogus--“Very displeasing or inferior; bad.” Tempting as it might be, I won’t make any political comparisons.

Smoosh--“Squash, crush, or flatten.” As in getting a rejection from an editor makes you feel smooshed.

Fricking--“Exressing amazement, anger, exasperation, etc.” (This word--and variations thereof--is a favorite utterance of Dr. Elliot Reid, a main character on Scrubs.)

Nyah--“Expr. A feeling of superiority or contempt.” Somehow, this works best said multiple times.

Buzzkill--“A person who or thing which dampens enthusiasm or enjoyment,” as in my eighth grade teacher.

Unibrow--“A pair of eyebrows that meet above the nose, giving the appearance of a single eyebrow,” also as in my eighth grade teacher.

So what are your favorite words? Are you fluent in l33t? Do you know the difference between phat and fat? Who knows what next year will bring. Word.