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American Dialect Society's 2003 Words of the Year
January 16, 2004 2:38 PM   Subscribe

ass-hat: noun, a thoughtless or stupid person.
cliterati: collective noun, feminist or woman-oriented writers or opinion-leaders.
flexitarian: noun, a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat.
freegan: noun, person who eats only what they can get for free.

Some winners from the American Dialect Society's 2003 Words of the Year.
posted by y2karl (30 comments total)

 
I can't believe the savaged "Santorum" isn't there!
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:43 PM on January 16, 2004


Yeah, ditto on "santorum." And I've been aware of "freegan" for almost five years now... in fact, I just saw the kid from my high school that I learned it in reference to in front of my local Barnes & Noble. He probably picked a scone out of the trash or something. (Yeah, I'm a little bit not impressed by freegans)
posted by logovisual at 2:57 PM on January 16, 2004


I think Santorum got omitted because there was no agreed upon definition, though my favorite one is the sludge that results from anal sex, the combination of lube and poop.

How about some of my own words that missed the cut?

Tediocracy -when the basic act of participating in government is a tedious pain in the ass that accomplishes nothing.

Geniass - someone who's smart and is a prick about it or thinks they're the only ones with brains.

Attitard - someone who's world outlook is so utterly warped that they are, effectively, socially retarded
posted by fenriq at 3:03 PM on January 16, 2004


No hyphen in asshat, please.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:03 PM on January 16, 2004


Winner: metrosexual

Finally, a word that's even more annoying than "blog"...

zhuzh, tjuzs: verb, to plump up, fluff up or primp. 4

guh?
posted by rajbot at 3:16 PM on January 16, 2004


Metrosexual: word mostly likely to vanish from pop culture once Queer-Eye for the Straight Guy drops in ratings.

Lord strike me down if I ever start thinking of myself as "metrosexual".
posted by tomorama at 3:24 PM on January 16, 2004


Spreading Scarborough
posted by homunculus at 3:27 PM on January 16, 2004


Metafilter: Geniasses in parade
posted by amberglow at 3:35 PM on January 16, 2004


oops...on parade (guess i'm not one)
posted by amberglow at 3:35 PM on January 16, 2004


I don't really think SARS should count, since it's not really a new word in the same sense as the others on the list. I guess the distinction is, it doesn't describe something that we previously used a combination of other words to describe, since it was created at about the same time as the thing it describes came to be known.

My new word this year was "recockulous" instead of "ridiculous", which isn't really a new word either, but I have found myself saying it at innapropriate and unfortunate times.
posted by Hildago at 3:47 PM on January 16, 2004


Santorum was not nominated by anyone, probably because it is a stunt word, which is why I did not nominate it myself. It does not really exist in the wild, that is, outside of being used by people who are merely trying to propagate it.

Judging from past votes, I'd say words are more likely to be nominated if they fill a lexical gap, or fill a real need to describe a situation or thing which did not previously exist. Words invented to make a highly partisan political jibe rarely appear in the nomination rolls, and I think history shows they rarely have staying power, either. Most of the words on the Wingnut and Samizdata glossaries fall into this category.

An exception which might break out of this, however, is fisking, although it has yet to find a firm place outside of Blogistan and in traditional print media.

Metrosexual dates to at least 1994: I suspect it will last, with a lower profile, for quite some time. How many of you remember Real Men Don't Eat Quiche? The book was endlessly talked about after it was published in 1982. And the quiche-eaters are still out there.

Freegan is a good example of a word which did not reach its prime until recently. As you can see in the opening paragraph on the American Dialect Society web site, "These are the words which most colored the nation's lexicon, or otherwise dominated the national discourse." It says nothing about new words, or words coined, invented, or found in 2003. The words nominated are supposed to be those words which rose to prominence and had a connection to current events which seemed to peak in 2003 (although you can never reall tell until some years have passed).

Another example is zhuzh (spelled "tjuzs" by the Bravo people), which has citations at least as far back as the late Sixties, but came to the nation's attention through the television show "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

There will probably be a fuller report on the Words of the Year vote, with more explanations and better definitions, later.

Note: I am webmaster for the ADS, a member of the society, and attended the nominating and voting sessions for the Words of the Year. I am also a lexicographer for Oxford University Press, working on the four-volume Historical Dictionary of American Slang.
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:50 PM on January 16, 2004


SARS certainly should count, despite its being an acronym. It is a perfectly good noun, exists in various forms in most major languages, characterized a good part of the national (and international) discourse last year, and is one of those rare words about which we know the coiners and date of origin. (Safire covered this unusually well in his May 3, 2003 column).
posted by Mo Nickels at 3:56 PM on January 16, 2004


Another example is zhuzh (spelled "tjuzs" by the Bravo people)

Good heavens. The letters that make up a word customarily have some resemblance to a pattern of sounds that can be produced by a human mouth, don't they?
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:02 PM on January 16, 2004


Mars, think noodge with a "j" instead of the "n"
posted by amberglow at 4:13 PM on January 16, 2004


My understanding of freegan is someone who shops vegan but will eat anything that's free; the focus is on an economic boycott of the factory farm industry more than anything else.
posted by sudama at 4:18 PM on January 16, 2004


Where for art thou, shitmittens?

(appologies to STWC)
posted by daver at 4:23 PM on January 16, 2004


Mars Saxman: Not in english, certainly.
posted by spazzm at 5:01 PM on January 16, 2004


SARS certainly should count, despite its being an acronym. It is a perfectly good noun, exists in various forms in most major languages, characterized a good part of the national (and international) discourse last year, and is one of those rare words about which we know the coiners and date of origin.

Acronymity (ha ha) has nothing to do with it. It's the name of a disease, and that's pretty much the only value it has. I mean, it's not witty, it's not clever, it's not especially useful except to talk about the thing that it is. I don't think the fact that it exists in other language is a criteria, is it, since most of the other words are pretty much english-language only?

I think the issue for me is that medical terminology doesn't seem to be so much coined as constructed. There's a very specific reason why SARS is called SARS, that's because it's a respiratory syndrome that is severely acute. It's not indicative of the cultural or intellectual landscape that SARS is called SARS. It has, in other words, entered our vocabulary only because of the panic over the disease, not because it fills in any gap in the language. That's why *I* think it's the odd-word-out in that list, but then it's just my opinion.
posted by Hildago at 5:10 PM on January 16, 2004


So that's what I am - a "flexitarian" ! Generally a vegetarian - in that I don't like eating the flesh of tortured animals killed in a mechanistic fashion - but I will still eat such meat offered to me in the spirit of honest, generous hospitality. I'm cutting back on fish too, but feel less for them. I wonder about this, in that they are beings, also, and have personalities.

Language is a battleground, a marketplace, and an exchange of erotic fluids.

When new words cease being born, this will be the true end of things.
posted by troutfishing at 7:30 PM on January 16, 2004


When new words cease being born, this will be the true end of things.
It'll be doubleplusungood? ; >
posted by amberglow at 7:49 PM on January 16, 2004


Heh. Thanks, daver. One also wonders where all the toboggan porn has gone!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:04 PM on January 16, 2004


Also you can listen right now to this week's broadcast of WNYC and PRI's The Next Big Thing. where the question is What's Your Word? Part of the broadcast is from the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year convention in Boston where the suggestion frog marching be relabeled freedom marching provokes general mirth. They make much of the words asshat and craptacular, let it be noted.
posted by y2karl at 9:07 PM on January 16, 2004


is there a special name for words like craptacular or fugly?
posted by amberglow at 9:17 PM on January 16, 2004


neologsim
posted by y2karl at 9:40 PM on January 16, 2004


Fukc--I mean neologism!
posted by y2karl at 9:41 PM on January 16, 2004


Metrosexual: A manscaping ass-hat embedded with the cliterati.
posted by liam at 12:10 PM on January 17, 2004


my favorite of the year was
butt call
n. An unintended phone call placed by sitting on one's cell phone.
posted by rswst8 at 1:39 PM on January 17, 2004


rswst8: I work on cell phones. Round here we call that Ass Dialing. As in, "OMFG, I can't believe I ass dialed you and left a voice mail of 10 minutes of my commute home!"
posted by daver at 2:06 PM on January 17, 2004


There's a title: Ass Dialed By An Asshat
posted by y2karl at 2:17 PM on January 17, 2004


Oh, maybe this is the thread where I should have declared my desire the mainstreaming of heteroflexible.
posted by NortonDC at 7:05 PM on January 18, 2004


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