Monday, January 08, 2007


Pluto is the word of the year

I'm such a word nerd. Last week we had the banished words of 2007, and I am now pleased to share with you the American Dialect Society's word of the year: pluto.

"To pluto is to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet," according to the press release. I can't say I've heard it used before, but I think it makes a lovely substitute for the démodé "to vote someone off the island."

Other finalists in the contest, which drew tens of internet voters, included climate canary, a species which acts as an indicator for global warming; murse a man's purse, and to julie: "to organize an event. Also as a noun. From Julie McCoy, the character of cruise director on the television show The Love Boat."

While all that was rather interesting, what I found most fascinating was the addendum to the press release, which shows the word of the year and justification, going back to 1990. It gives me vertigo to look back and see what is now commonplace or even quaint terminology and how revolutionary it was just a couple of years ago, not just in technology but in popular culture as well:

1995 Word of the Year: (tie) World Wide Web on the Internet, and newt, to make aggressive changes as a newcomer. Most Likely to Succeed: World Wide Web and its variants the Web, WWW, W3. Most Useful: E.Q. (for Emotional Quotient), the ability to manage one’s emotions. Most Original: postal or go postal, to act irrationally, often violently, from stress at work. Most Outrageous: starter marriage, a first marriage not expected to be the last.

1994 Word of the Year: (tie) cyber, pertaining to computers and electronic communication, and morph, to change form. Most Promising: Infobahn, the Internet. Most Trendy: dress down day or casual day, a workday when employees are allowed to dress casually. Most Euphemistic: challenged indicating an undesirable or unappealing condition.

1993 Word of the Year: information superhighway, network linking computers, television, telephone, and other electronic means of communication. Most Likely to Succeed: quotative like with a form of the verb be to indicate speech or thought. Most Useful: thing premodified by a noun, e.g. “a Chicago thing.” Most Imaginative: McJob, a generic, unstimulating, low-paying job. Most Amazing: cybersex, sexual stimulation by computer. Most Unnecessary: mosaic culture to describe a multicultural society.

1992 Word of the Year: Not! expression of disagreement. Most Likely to Succeed: snail mail, s-mail, mail that is physically delivered, as opposed to e-mail. Most Useful: grunge, a style of clothing. Most Original: Franken-, genetically altered. Most Amazing: Munchhausen’s syndrome by proxy, illness fabricated to evoke sympathy for the caregiver. Most unnecessary: gender feminism, belief that sex roles are social, not biological. Most Outrageous: ethnic cleansing, purging of ethnic minorities.

1991 Word of the Year: mother of all —, greatest, most impressive. Most Likely to Succeed: rollerblade, skate with rollers in a single row. Most Successful: in your face, aggressive, confrontational, flamboyant. Most Original: molecular pharming/pharming, genetically modifying farm animals to produce human proteins for pharmaceutical use.

1990 Word of the Year: bushlips, insincere political rhetoric. Most Likely to Succeed: (tie) notebook PC, a portable personal computer weighting 4-8 pounds, and rightsizing, adjusting the size of a staff by laying off employees. Most Useful: (tie) technostupidity, loss of ability through dependence on machines, and potty parity, equalization of toilet facilities for the sexes. Most Amazing: bungee jumping, jumping from a high platform with elastic cables on the feet. Most Outrageous: politically correct, PC, adhering to principles of left-wing social concern.