Fun_People Archive
17 Jan
neologism report

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 17 Jan 97 14:36:05 -0800
To: Fun_People
Subject: neologism report

Forwarded-by: Michael Travers <>

    In its annual vote at its annual meeting, the American Dialect Society
on Jan. 3 chose as word of the year 1996 "mom" as in "soccer mom," the
newly significant type of voter courted by both candidates during the
presidential campaign. That phrase spun off other designations such as
"minivan mom" and "waitress mom."
    "Mom" received 25 votes in the final show of hands, compared with 16
for the runner-up "alpha geek," the person in a workplace who knows most
about computers.
    Every year since 1990 the Society has voted on words that are most
representative of the year gone by. The chosen words or phrases do not have
to be brand new, since few completely new words attain wide currency, but
they do have to be newly prominent or distinctive. The election is serious,
based on members' tracking of new words during the year, but it is far from
solemn, since many of the words represent fads and foibles of the year. Some
less well known words are chosen because they are ingenious inventions.
    Before the vote on Word (or Phrase) of the Year, members chose winners
in particular categories. These were the other 1996 choices:
    1. Most Useful: "dot" (18 votes) used instead of "period" in e-mail and
URL addresses. Runner-up was "d'oh" (12) recognition of one's stupidity
(from the Simpsons TV show).
    2. Most Unnecessary: "Mexican hustle" (20) another name for the Macarena
(and it's not Mexican). Runner-ups were "bridge to the 21st century" (13)
the putative work of presidential candidate Bill Clinton, and "uber-" (6)
prefix substituting for "super" as in "ubermom."
    3. Most Controversial: "Ebonics" (unanimous) African-American vernacular
English. Even among ADS members "Ebonics" was controversial, as they found
themselves disagreeing on the definition. Does "Ebonics" imply that it is
a separate language?
    4. Most Likely to Succeed: "drive-by" (25) designating brief visits or
hospital stays as in "drive-by labor," "drive-by mastectomy," "drive-by
viewing." Runner-up "nail" (7) to accomplish perfectly, as an Olympic feat,
election victory, or movie role.
    5. Most Outrageous: "toy soldier" (22) land mine (in the former
Yugoslavia). Runner-ups "stalkerazzi" (4) photographers (paparazzi) who
stalk their prey, and "roofie" (3) Rohypnol, the date-rape drug.
    6. Most Original: "prebuttal" (18) preemptive rebuttal; quick response
to a political adversary.  Runner-up: "alpha geek" (14).
    7. Most Euphemistic: tie (18 each) between "urban camping" living
homeless in a city, and "food insecure" said of a country where people
are starving.
    8. Word of the Year:
  + First vote: "mom" 7, "alpha geek" 7, "drive-by" 7, "go there" to mention
a topic 6, "dot" 5, "all that" 5, "Macarena" 2, "stalkerazzi" 2, "nail" 1,
"prebuttal" 1, "una" as in Unabomber 1.
  + Second vote: "mom" 12, "alpha geek" 9, "drive-by" 7, "go there" 7, "dot"
4, "all that" 3.
  + Third vote: "mom" 17, "alpha geek" 10, "drive-by" 9, "go there" 6.
  + Final vote: "mom" 25, "alpha geek" 16.
    The vote for Word of the Year 1997 will take place at the Society's
annual meeting in New York City at the Grand Hyatt Hotel January 8-10, 1998.
Nominations should be sent to the chair of the Society's Committee on New
Words,  Professor Wayne Glowka, Dept. of English and Speech, Georgia College
and State University, Milledgeville GA 31061; e-mail

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