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OUP poll for representative 21st century word
Posted: 16 October 2007 01:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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I would like to rely on music for the words that define the 20th Century: 1. Jazz, and 2. Rock and Roll (not one word, but one meaning). They split the century almost perfectly, and define USAans’ socioeconomic movement through the century.

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Posted: 16 October 2007 05:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Very American-centric. I thought about Jazz as that was the American Dialect Society “Word of the Century.” But I went in another direction because the criteria were different. For one ADS does not necessarily choose its “words of the ___” based on being “representative.” Lexical significance is the main criterion. For another, ADS is, obviously, focused on American speech. But there is a much wider world out there.

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Posted: 16 October 2007 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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A word to represent the 20th century? A century of two global wars, millions upon millions of people slaughtered.  I’d nominate Nazi, the word sums up the horrors of the 20th century in a nutshell.

First cite in the OED is from 1930:

1930 Times 19 May 13 In another encounter after midnight a ‘Nazi’ shot two Communists dead with an automatic revolver.

Of course, the abbreviation would have been around in Germany for the best part of a decade by then. The Deutsche Arbeiter Partei was formed in 1919, I think it was in 1920 that the name was changed to National Sozialistiche Deutsch Arbeiter Partei, thus giving rise to the word Nazi.

It’s a fair bet that the term has permeated almost every language on Earth now, but I wonder if it will survive the 21st century.

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Posted: 16 October 2007 06:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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I’d still go for ‘social’ in the social engineering/creating a new social order sense, the twentieth century saw numerous countries/societies recreate themselves, Nazi Germany for one, but also Russian Empire/Soviet Union/Russian Federation and all the related annexations and seccessions in that region. Plus independence movements and the creation of a national identity and social infrastructure in numerous countries previously subject to the imperialist powers (African countries, India, Eire). And there’s the extreme reconstructions of Pol Pot, Idi Amin and the Cultural Revolution in China.

Lastly in the West, the rise of social housing, state pensions, national health services, universal education, unemployment benefits, building/savings and loan societies. Plus, in Britain at least, ideal living built by industrialists and government (Saltaire and the garden cities, later Milton Keynes), and workers improvement initiatives like evening classes and miners’ brass bands.

Most of the above cropped up in almost all the Western countries in one form or another and the Scout movement, which I’d argue is a manifestation of the social improvement ethos that permeated the century, was worldwide by the end of it, and probably lessening in popularity in the new century.

Wars too had a much more immediate and devastating impact on civilian populations than in previous centuries.

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Posted: 16 October 2007 10:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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With all due respect, aldi, Nazi only became important to the world beyond Germany in 1933 and ceased being so (except for retrospective condemnation) in 1945.  It can hardly be taken as representing the century as a whole.  Mind you, I think the whole idea of a “representative word” for a century is silly, but that one doesn’t work at all.  If you’re going in that direction, Communism makes considerably more sense, but since it started in the mid-19th and (alas) is still going, I’m not sure it works either.

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Posted: 16 October 2007 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Following on from Dave’s suggestion of “anti-imperialism”, how about “freedom”, both for the use and abuse of the word and for the actual freedoms gained by peoples throughout the world.

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Posted: 16 October 2007 10:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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languagehat - 16 October 2007 10:21 AM

With all due respect, aldi, Nazi only became important to the world beyond Germany in 1933 and ceased being so (except for retrospective condemnation) in 1945.  It can hardly be taken as representing the century as a whole.  Mind you, I think the whole idea of a “representative word” for a century is silly, but that one doesn’t work at all.  If you’re going in that direction, Communism makes considerably more sense, but since it started in the mid-19th and (alas) is still going, I’m not sure it works either.

You don’t think nazi has taken on a life of its own beyond the description of a political party? It’s a universal term of political abuse now and this is what I was primarily referring to.

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Posted: 16 October 2007 11:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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I’d say “fascist” is more universal, and it applied to more countries than “Nazi,” so if you’re going in that direction that might be a better choice.

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Posted: 17 October 2007 06:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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But fascist as a universal term of political abuse has a different meaning than that of the historical fascism of the 1930s and 40s. Today, fascist means simply authoritarian, when it has any denotation at all (as in Islamofascist, where it doesn’t mean anything other than derogation and abuse).

Historical fascism, on the other hand, was a rather well developed political philosophy with various offshoots (race-based fascism of Nazi Germany being one). It’s pretty much gone today as a practiced philosophy, although one can find governments that exhibit various elements of fascism.

I would agree that communism is much more representative of the last century. While it was neither invented nor completely eliminated in the span of the 20th century, from 1918-1992 it had a pretty good run.

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Posted: 17 October 2007 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Now that Godwin’s Law has been invoked, we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming…

All the suggestions so far have certainly exceeded the original article’s “gingerism” and “prevenge”.  If “rock and roll” and “jazz” are too American, gingerism is certainly too far the other way.  USans don’t call them ginger nor do we discriminate against them (much less anticipate a whole century of said discrimination).

And why are so many of the suggestions “hate” words?  I hope that’s not “representative”.  Are we really a bunch of haters?

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Posted: 17 October 2007 09:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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My own choice would be a word which has been around quite a while, but seems largely to have fallen out of use: “Admass”. To me, it sums up the way the 21st century world is going, with what were once “people” becoming “consumers”, “voters”, etc. --- social units to be manipulated.  More and more often nowadays, I feel like some nameless character in “The Space Merchants”.......  “God’s in his Heaven—all’s right with the world” --- phooey. I wish I could share Pippa’s optimism.

Sorry, friends, to sound so splenetic. I get more benevolent after the third vodka (which, today, is still a long way off).

And in this (very precious) little enclave of free, individual self-expression that is wordorigins.org, I don’t even need vodka.  See - I feel better already!

ed. : so far as i can gather, “admass” was coined by J.B.Priestley about 50 years ago.

[ Edited: 17 October 2007 10:46 AM by lionello ]
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Posted: 17 October 2007 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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Indeed it was.

OED:

1955 J. B. PRIESTLEY & J. HAWKES Journey down Rainbow iii. 51 Admass. This is my name for the whole system of an increasing productivity, plus inflation, plus a rising standard of material living, plus high-pressure advertising and salesmanship, plus mass communications, plus cultural democracy and the creation of the mass mind, the mass man.

It could usefully replace the word Christmas too, killing two birds with one stone. ‘The festival of the admen’.

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Posted: 17 October 2007 11:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Is “global warming” still an inconvenient truth - even for this group?
Seems a very long-lasting and noble word that may yet have universal repercussions.

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Posted: 17 October 2007 12:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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And why are so many of the suggestions “hate” words?  I hope that’s not “representative”.  Are we really a bunch of haters?

*points silently to history of 20th century*

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Posted: 17 October 2007 12:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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USans don’t call them ginger nor do we discriminate against them

You don’t watch South Park, do you?

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