The Oxford English Dictionary has 6 words with first citations from 2002. In that year, the “Beltway snipers” terrorize Washington, D. C. and suburban Maryland and Virginia, killing ten and injuring three others before the pair were captured; tennis player Serena Williams defeats her sister Venus in straight sets in the finals of the French Open; Peter Paul Rubens’s painting The Massacre of the Innocents sells for US$76.2 million at auction; American Idol debuts on U. S. television, with Kelly Clarkson winning the first season; fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart is kidnapped at knifepoint—she would eventually be recovered alive nine months later; and a portion of the Larsen Ice Shelf off Antarctica the size of the U. S. state of Rhode Island breaks off due to global warming.
The words of 2002:
asshat, n. The year 2002 saw the appearance of this insult, which relies on the imagery of someone whose head is up their ass.
Bennifer, n. Actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez were celebrity couple du jour in 2002.
craptacular, adj. An adjective for those things you love to hate.
dubstep, n. The genre of dance music makes the scene.
extraordinary rendition, n. This term, for the government’s movement of a criminal suspect across international borders without using the formal extradition process appears back in 1983, but it wouldn’t become known outside of international law circles until 2002, when the U. S. government started using extraordinary rendition to denote their transport of terrorist subjects to countries that practiced torture.
fisking, n. Named after British journalist Robert Fisk, fisking is a line-by-line exegesis of a document, usually by a blogger.
gate rape, n. Modeled after date rape, this slang term refers to the increased security checks at airport gates that were put into place in 2002.
Google bomb, n. A Google bomb is an attempt to design a website to take advantage of a search engine’s, especially Google’s, algorithm in order to make the site appear first among the listings. Google bombing differs from search engine optimization only in degree and intent, with Google bombing being an abuse of techniques that would be deemed legitimate when used in moderation.
Google-whacking, n. A game wherein the players try to find two-word phrases that yield exactly one search result on Google.
GWOT, n. In 2002 the Bush Administration started referring to its foreign policy as the global war on terror, inadvertently generating this unfortunate acronym.
mash-up, n. Digital technologies and the internet allowed people to create musical works, and other media, formed by combining material from a disparate sources. Mash-ups started to become big in 2002, but the OED traces the word back to 1994.
nom, int. This echoic term, probably taken from the noise that Cookie Monster on Sesame Street uses to indicate he is eating, came to denote enjoyment of food. By 2007, nom was being used as a noun to refer to food, a use that was largely inspired by its use by the lolcats on the website icanhascheezburger.com.
noob, n. This variant on newbie, a “newcomer, rookie,” makes its appearance.
Norovirus, n. This group of viruses that cause gastrointestinal illness in humans got their name in 2002, from the Norwalk virus, named for Norwalk, Ohio which had such an outbreak in 1968.
parkour, n. Parkour is an athletic discipline and activity of moving quickly through an urban environment, overcoming an obstacles that might be in the way, a form of urban daredevilry. It’s nearly synonymous with free running, a term that appears in 2003, although parkour emphasizes style and grace while free running emphasizes acrobatics.
pwn, v. This videogame term, formed from the common typographical error for own, appears in 2002. To pwn someone is to defeat or embarrass them.
sausage fest, n. A sausage fest is a party with a high male-to-female ratio. Whether or not a sausage fest is a good thing depends on your perspective, although the term is generally used negatively. Svinyard 118 has antedated this one to 2000.
South Park Republican, n. This term for an American with libertarian views crops up in 2002, standing in contrast to the religious right. South Park Republicans take their name from the iconoclastic, animated television series South Park, which evinces libertarian ideals.
twinkling, n. The sense of twinkling that arises in 2002 is that of the hand gesture, wiggling one’s fingers upwards or jazz hands, to signify approval. The gesture is favored by grass roots activists, and twinkling used at demonstrations as a means to show support without interrupting the speaker with applause.
vlog, n. The abbreviation for video blog makes its debut.
vuvuzela, n. The valveless, plastic trumpets start appearing at South African soccer matches. The name comes from a 1995 song title.
Wag, n.4 This Wag is a Briticism from the world of professional soccer. It’s an acronym for wives and girlfriends, and is often used in contexts referring to the extravagant lifestyles and high media profiles of the women and their husbands.
These words are taken from the Oxford English Dictionary, based on that dictionary’s earliest citation for that word. I’ve also taken words from the Among the New Words column in the journal American Speech; and in many cases these words have been antedated by the OED. Of course, that does not necessarily mean the word was coined in the given year; it only means that is the earliest date the big dictionary has for the word. In many cases, these words can and have been antedated. My selection is not scientific or systematic; it is based on what I think is interesting; sometimes they are words that appear earlier or later than I would have thought; others have a particular historical affiliation for that year or represent some historical trend; and others are just odd words. I’m avoiding back-formations and variations on existing words. Again, be warned that the coining of a word does not necessarily coincide with the invention of a concept. Often, there will be older words that express the same sense.
Copyright 1997-2015, by David Wilton