ADS 2005 Word of the Year

Each year for the last 15 years the American Dialect Society selects its Word of the Year at its annual meeting. This year the meeting is being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the word was selected today. The selection is the word or phrase that the society members feel best reflects the language and preoccupations of the year gone by. The ADS vote is the longest-running “words of the year” vote and the only one conducted by an non-commercial entity.

Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as a vocabulary item—not just words, but phrases, affixes, and combining forms are eligible for consideration as well. The words or phrases do not have to be brand new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year, in the manner of Time magazine’s Person of the Year. The choice is not made based on any rigorous formula or methodology—although the members’ wide-ranging and deep expertise in the study of words is certainly applied, so it is in no way to be considered official or final. Rather, it represents a snapshot of expert opinion at the time. The deliberations are anything but solemn (sometimes getting rather raucous).

In addition to an overall Word of the Year, words are chosen in a number of categories: Most Useful, Most Creative, Most Unnecessary, Most Outrageous, Most Euphemistic, Most Likely to Succeed, and Least Likely to Succeed. In addition especially for this year a new category was created: Best Tom Cruise Word of the Year. While celebrity-related terms have been considered in the past (such as last year’s "Bennifer"), the sheer number of words inspired by Cruise’s antics prompted the group to create a special category.

The American Dialect Society began choosing Words of the Year in 1990. A full account of the previous choices may be found on the American Dialect

Society’s website, www.americandialect.org. The Society’s success rate at picking words that become permanent additions to the American vocabulary is mixed, as you will see below. This is partly because predicting the success of words is very difficult, but also because the words are chosen because they are emblematic of the year, not simply because the Society believes they will succeed. Y2K in 1999 and chad in 2000 are examples of emblematic terms that few would expect to remain on the scene for long. (An superb explanation of which words are likely to succeed may be found in Predicting New Words: The Secrets of Their Success, by Allan Metcalf, Houghton Mifflin, 2002.)

Words of Previous Years

2004: red/blue/purple states, red favoring conservative Republicans and blue favoring liberal Democrats, as well as the undecided purple states in the political map of the United States.

2003: metrosexual, fashion-conscious heterosexual male.

2002: weapons of mass destruction or WMD, nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons believed to be in Iraq.

2001: 9-11, 9/11 or September 11, terrorist attacks on that date.

2000: chad, a small scrap of paper punched from a voting card on which the presidential election was literally hung.

Word of the Decade (1991-2000): web.

Word of the Twentieth Century: jazz.

Word of the Millennium (1000-2000): she.

1999: Y2K.

1998: prefix e- for “electronic” as in e-mail and newly prominent ecommerce.

1997: millennium bug, also known as Y2K bug or Y2K problem.

1996: mom as in soccer mom, newly significant type of voter.

1995: (tie) World Wide Web on the Internet and newt, to make aggressive changes as a newcomer, after newly elected Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

1994: (tie) cyber, pertaining to computers and electronic communicationand morph, to change form.

1993: information superhighway, the internet.

1992: Not! expression of disagreement.

1991: mother of all —, greatest, most impressive after a prediction by Saddam Hussein that he would defeat US armed forces in the "mother of all battles."

1990: bushlips, insincere political rhetoric, after George H.W. Bush’s reneged pledge not to raise taxes.

2005 Nominees and Winners
The nominees for 2005 and the winners in the various categories are as follows.

Most Useful
lifehack: to make one’s day-to-day behaviors or activities more efficient. Also as a noun. Lifehacks apply the make-do, can-do, what-will-it-do attitude that originated in computer hacking.

podcast: a digital feed containing audio or video files for downloading to a portable MP3 player. From the brand name MP3 player iPod + broadcast.

truthiness: the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true. Coined by comedian Stephen Colbert on 17 October.

patent troll: a person or business, especially a lawyer, who applies for or owns a patent with no intention of developing the product but with every intention of launching lawsuits against patent infringers.

And the winner is: podcast.

Most Creative:

whale tail: the appearance of thong or g-string underwear above the waistband of pants, shorts, or a skirt. Also known as a longhorn, esp. in Texas.

pineosaur: a very old, Wollemi pine tree in Australia’s Blue Mountains.

muffin top: the bulge of flesh hanging over the top of low-rider jeans.

fleeancée: runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks.

And the winner is: whale tail.

Most Unnecessary:

man date: when two heterosexual men engage in an activity together without romantic implications.

pope-squatting: registering a domain name that is the same of a new pope in order to profit from it.

K Fed: Kevin Federline, Mr. Britney Spears, formed in emulation of J Lo.

reverse logistics: a process by which you desupply your warehouse or distribute stored merchandise.

And the winner is: K Fed.

Most Outrageous:

Whizzinator: a trademark for a realistic-looking prosthetic penis that dispenses synthetic urine in order to pass a drug test.

Bumper Nutz: fake testicles hung from the rear end of a vehicle.

Ex-Lax option: nuclear option; immediately withdrawal of troops from Iraq

crotchfruit: a child; children. Perhaps inspired by the expression the fruit of one’s loins, this term began among proponents of child-free public spaces, but has since spread to parents who use it jocularly.

intelligent design, the theory that life could only have been created by a sentient being. Often acronymized and pronounced as ID, the theory is being pushed by proponents of creation science as a necessary part of school curricula alongside explanations of evolution.

And the winner is: crotchfruit.

Most Euphemistic:

VBIED: a car bomb. An acronym for Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device.

Sometimes pronounced vee-bid or vee-bidder.

internal nutritution: force-feeding a prisoner against his or her will.

holistic practioner: a prostitute.

holiday tree: a Christmas tree.

extraordinary rendition: the surrendering of a suspect or detainee to another jurisdiction, especially overseas.

man date: when two heterosexual men engage in an activity together without romantic implications.

And the winner is: internal nutrition.

Best Tom Cruise Word of the Year, a.k.a. "Cruiselex":

jump the couch: to exhibit strange or frenetic behavior. Inspired by the couchbouncing antics of Tom Cruise on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show in May. It derives from an earlier term, jump the shark, meaning to (irretrievably) diminish in quality; to outlast public interest or popular support.

TomKat: the celebrity couple of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.

Cruisazy: crazy in the manner of Tom Cruise.

And the winner is: jump the couch.

Most Likely to Succeed:

sudoku: a number puzzle in which numbers 1 through 9 must be placed into a grid of cells so that each row or column contains only one of each. The current craze started in Japan, caught on in the U.K. in 2004, and then exploded in the U.S. in 2005.

podcast: a digital feed containing audio or video files for downloading to a portable MP3 player. From the brand name MP3 player iPod + broadcast.

Cyber Monday: the Monday after Thanksgiving, purported to be the day that most online shopping takes place.

folksonomy: a taxonomy or ontology created by an ad hoc group of non-experts. From folk + ta(x)onomy.

And the winner is: sudoku.

Least Likely to Succeed:

pope-squatting: registering a domain name that is the same of a new pope before the pope chooses his new name in order to profit from it.

metrospiritual: an unspecific, cosmpolitan, and expansive view of spirituality. Inspired by metrosexual.

Cruiselex: Cruiselex is not itself a nominated word, but the term refers collectively to all the other Tom-Cruise-related words of the year in the category below. (The term Cruiselex was coined in the WOTY meeting.)
Brangelina: the celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

GSAVE: acronym for the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism, a failed attempt by the Bush administration to rename the Global War On Terror.

And the winner is: pope-squatting.

2005 ADS Word of the Year:

truthiness: the quality of stating concepts or facts one wishes or believes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.

Katrina: all Katrina-related words.

podcast: a digital feed containing audio or video files for downloading to a portable MP3 player. From the brand name MP3 player iPod + broadcast.

intelligent design: the theory that life could only have been created by a sentient being. Often acronymized and pronounced as ID, the theory is being pushed by proponents of creation science as a necessary part of school curricula alongside explanations of evolution.

refugee: a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. The word was notable in 2005 for the popular redefinition to exclude victims of Katrina because refugees are perceived as only being from developing countries.

Cruiselex: Cruiselex is not itself a nominated word, but the term refers collectively to all the other Tom-Cruise-related words of the year in the special category. The term Cruiselex was actually coined during the ADS meeting.

Heck of a job: catch phrase coined by President Bush to praise FEMA director Michael Brown’s handling of the Katrina emergency.

brown-out: the poor handling of an emergency, after FEMA director Brown.

disaster industrial complex: the array of businesses which make profit from by providing emergency services, especially those that result from no-bid government contracts.

And the winner is: truthiness.

Some may object to truthiness as artificial and something of a joke. But many in the room felt that most of the events that dominated the news in 2005 all resulted because of truthiness, the discarding of facts in favor of what one wishes were true: the conduct of war in Iraq, the failure to acknowledge that US personnel were responsible for torturing prisoners, the revelation of domestic spying in the US, the government’s handling of the Katrina disaster, the intelligent design embarrassment, the nomination of a clearly unqualified person for the US Supreme Court because she had a good heart, the Valerie Plame affair, and the Republican congressional scandals 

And there is a bit of irony in a group of linguists honoring the word. For when he coined it, Stephen Colbert had this to say about it: "And that brings us to tonight’s word: truthiness. Now I’m sure some of the Word Police, the wordanistas over at Webster’s, are gonna say, ‘Hey, that’s not a word.’ Well, anybody who knows me knows that I’m no fan of dictionaries or reference books. They’re elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn’t true, or what did or didn’t happen. Who’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I wanna say it happened in 1941, that’s my right. I don’t trust books. They’re all fact, no heart."

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