Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1997 12:02:56 EST
From: AAllan AAllan[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM
Subject: Nominate Words of the Year 1997
It's that time! As you know, a lighter part of our business on Friday, January
9 in New York City will be our nominations and vote on Words of the Year just
past, something we've done since 1990.
We still don't have objective criteria for our choice. Instead, it's a matter
of expert (=our) opinion: what words and phrases have been most notable during
the past year? Which ones best reflect our preoccupations and attitudes?
We don't insist that they be brand-new words, because few words born in a year
become instantly widespread. (Example: "Ebonics," coined 1973, published 1975,
used in a small circle till mid-December 1996.) However, it's nice to spot
fledglings with promise.
We also don't insist that they be widely known; some of our choices have been
for cleverness rather than popularity. (Example: "bushlips" insincere
political rhetoric, chosen as our first WOTY in 1990.) I must say, though,
that I'm uneasy at a choice where everyone says "huh? Never heard of it."
Our procedure is to determine a half dozen categories and two or three
nominees for each in the morning committee meeting, then make our selection in
an open and not too solemn vote in the afternoon. The categories emphasize the
subjectiveness of the vote; at times we've thought of changing to subject-
matter categories, and we always can do that. But there's some benefit from
keeping the continuity of previous years' categories.
Nominations will come from Wayne Glowka, chair of the ADS New Words Committee;
David Barnhart, editor of the quarterly Barnhart Dictionary Companion that
publishes new words; and (new this year) Gareth Branwyn of Wired magazine,
keeping us up to date on the most influential source of new words, the e-
But other nominations are most welcome. Whether you have just one word to
propose or a whole list, please be brief and let us know: the word, its
definition, if possible a citation or example of use, and (if needed) a reason
why it should be WOTY.
Post your nomination to ADS-L or, if you're shy, send it to Wayne at:
wglowka[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]mail.gac.peachnet.edu
To remind you of the context, I'll attach the report on previous years'
voting. You can find detailed reports each year in the January issues of NADS.
- Allan Metcalf
'MOM' CHOSEN AS WORD OF THE YEAR 1996
In its annual vote at its annual meeting, the American Dialect Society on
Jan. 3, 1997 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 term 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
Before the vote on Word of the Year, members choose 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
(which is 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
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.
Previous choices for Words of the Year
1995 (tie) World Wide Web on the Internet, and newt to make aggressive
changes as a newcomer.
1994 (tie) cyber pertaining to computers and electronic communication, and
morph to change form.
1993 information superhighway network linking computers, television,
telephone, and other electronic means of communication.
1992 Not! expression of disagreement.
1991 mother of all --, greatest, most impressive.
1990 bushlips, insincere political rhetoric.
Previous choices in particular categories
1995 Most Useful: E.Q. (for Emotional Quotient), the ability to manage
one's emotions. Most Unnecessary: Vanna White shrimp, large shrimp for the
restaurant market. Most Likely to Succeed: World Wide Web and its variants
the Web, WWW, W3. Most Original: postal or go postal, to act irrationally,
often violently, from stress at work. Most Outrageous: starter marriage, a
first marriage not expected to be the last. Most Euphemistic: patriot, one
who believes in using force of arms if necessary to defend individual rights
against the government.
1994 Most Useful: gingrich, to deal with government agencies, policies,
and people in the manner of U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Most Promising:
Infobahn, the Internet. Most Imaginative: guillermo, an e-mail message in a
foreign language. Most Euphemistic: challenged indicating an undesirable or
unappealing condition. Most Trendy: dress down day or casual day, a workday
when employees are allowed to dress casually. Most Beautiful: sylvanshine,
night-time iridescence of forest trees.
1993 Most Useful: thing premodified by a noun, e.g. "a Chicago thing."
Most Unnecessary: mosaic culture to describe a multicultural society. Most
Likely to Succeed: quotative like with a form of the verb be to indicate
speech or thought. Most Outrageous: whirlpooling, assault of a female by a
male group in a swimming pool. Most Amazing: cybersex, sexual stimulation by
computer. Most Imaginative: McJob, a generic, unstimulating, low-paying job.
Most Euphemistic: street builder, a homeless person who constructs a shanty.
Most Unpronounceable: Jurassosaurus nedegoapeferkimorum, a new dinosaur.
1992 Most Useful: grunge, a style of clothing. Most Unnecessary: gender
feminism, belief that sex roles are social, not biological. Most Outrageous:
ethnic cleansing, purging of ethnic minorities. Most Original: Franken-,
genetically altered. Most Likely to Succeed: snail mail, s-mail, mail that
is physically delivered, as opposed to e-mail. Most Amazing: Munchhausen's
syndrome by proxy, illness fabricated to evoke sympathy for the caregiver.
1991 Most Unnecessary: massively parallel, many small computers yoked
together. Most Successful: in your face, aggressive, confrontational,
flamboyant. Most Original: molecular pharming, pharming, genetically
modifying farm animals to produce human proteins for pharmaceutical use. Most
Likely to Succeed: rollerblade, skate with rollers in a single row. Most
Amazing: velcroid, a person who sticks by the (U.S.) president, especially
for photo opportunities.
1990 Most Useful: technostupidity, loss of ability through dependence on
machines, and potty parity, equalization of toilet facilities for the sexes.
Most Unnecessary: peace dividend, anticipated saving in military spending
due to improved relations with the Soviet Union. Most Outrageous:
politically correct, PC, adhering to principles of left-wing social concern.
Most Original: voice merging, the oral tradition of African-American
preachers using another's words. Most Likely to Succeed: notebook PC, a
portable personal computer weighting 4-8 pounds, and rightsizing, adjusting
the size of a staff by laying off employees. Most Amazing: bungee jumping,
jumping from a high platform with elastic cables on the feet.