Date: Fri, 22 Dec 1995 10:15:10 +0100
From: debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UIUC.EDU
Subject: Re: WOTY from David Barnhart
Is the WOTY one that's hit it big, or one that's new and hit it big.
Because I know gaydar from, hmm, fourteen years ago.
Good question, Beth, and one we need to thrash around a bit, considering
the sidebars I've been getting about my own personal private list not being
really new words. Since I've been announcing words of the year on our
local radio station and occasionally in the regional press, I've always
chosen a combination of relative newness and recent prominence, in addition
to trying to pick words that would be entertaining as well as of some
significance, in terms of a discussion.
The Algeos and I seem to agree that World Wide Web fits these criteria, in
addition to John and Adele's more rigid constraint that the word not
appear, in the current sense, in the source dictionaries. I'm a little
looser on this last constraint, but I do agree.
My own Lexis/Nexis search on political correctness/politically correct
turned up over 31,500 hits in the "current news" files. That's a striking
increase in frequency over previous years--but the word, it seems to me, is
not just mellowing out and developing some senses not even recorded by
David Barnhart (come hear my talk Saturday), but that it is also declining
in prominence, which of course simply reflects the fact that information
content is inversely proportional to frequency of occurrence (a nice rule,
like my other favorite, a version of that old high school bio saw, ontology
But I also want to raise the issue of why pick a WOTY? For me, the reason
is to educate the public. Consequently, a rhetorical consideration of
audience interests and needs always comes into play when I make up a list,
checking it twice, trying to find out who's ... oops, wrong holiday. (I
think I thought of bah, humbug in my earlier post because my winter holiday
seems to have become MLA this year--sure hope it doesn't turn into a major
world religion or ethnic celebration.) So I don't pick words that are very
obscure or not likely to cause much of a cultural stir, no matter how
interesting they may be for us professional types.
Any other thoughts on this?
Dennis Baron debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]uiuc.edu
Department of English office: 217-333-2392
University of Illinois fax: 217-333-4321
608 South Wright Street home: 217-384-1683
Urbana, Illinois 61801