December 31, 2008

words of the year, #1


I haven't paid much attention to this year's discussion of Words-of-the-Year yet. For example, I completely missed this:
When the Oxford American Dictionary declared its word of the year for 2008 was "hypermiling" (making fuel-conserving adjustments to one's car and driving style in order to maximize gas mileage), the selection was met with widespread disapproval. The Chicago Tribune dismissed the word as a "scrap of jargon," while New York Times language maven William Safire lamented that hypermiling failed to rev up his "linguistic engine."
I've never heard the word used and I think there must be better choices, especially since it's not a "neologism of the year" contest. The American Dialect Sociey - which now, in the light of the proliferation of WOTY choices, styles its pick as the "granddaddy of all 2008 words-of-the-year votes" (and justly so) - will make its choice in January at its annual meeting. Considering the criteria for WOTY stardom ("the best 'word of the year' candidates will be new or newly popular in 2008, widely or prominently used in 2008, indicative or reflective of the national discourse") my bets are either on an Obama compound (like "Obama(ma)nia") or on one of the two electional mantras: change and maverick (along with its less mavericky brother, Joe-the-plumber). They may not be as fresh as hypermiling, but I can't think of any other words more indicative of the national discourse this year.

Others make lists of words and expressions that need a rest due to overuse this year (cartoon also on linked website). Maverick certainly belongs on this list, too.My guess is that nobody running for office will brand himself or herself as a maverick any time soon.

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