In the news

Since I’m no longer spending loads of time fielding misdirected phone calls, I’ve been working on a couple of series of posts¬† that will be both informative (questions and rules regarding quotation marks) and entertaining (language goofs gone public). Those posts will begin appearing next week. In the meantime, two things have come up in the news in the past few weeks that seem to be appropriate for discussion with you, my fellow Wordies.

Linguists vote ‘app’ Word of the Year by Joe Mandak, AP (Jan. 7, 2011)

The article notes that a number of its “short-list” terms were tech-related, as they have been for the past dozen years. That’s no surprise. Computer technology has found its way into just about every aspect of American life. Political or current events-related terms are also popular choices from year to year.

The article above reports on the Word of the Year as selected by the Linguistic Society of America. Other notable, as well as infamous, groups and organizations also do Word of the Year selections. Here are a few of their lists. I find their similarities as interesting as their differences.
from The Oxford University Press
from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (This list was determined not by a committee or vote but by how many people searched the terms in 2010.)
from Urban Dictionary (Decided slangy in comparison with the academic lists above)

Municipal math: City counts its services, gives each a score by Dave Forster, Virginian-Pilot (Jan. 16, 2011)
I appreciate that budgets are not unlimited and in crunch times, it’s necessary to find places to cut. Ratings such as these can be helpful in getting conversation about how to do that going. But I would argue that on this rating scale, the city’s public libraries should receive an additional point. Although they do not earn a point for directly “providing economic benefit,” they do have a strong potential to prevent economic loss. Every resume updated, job found, career-related class taken, or business started with the help of library resources is a testament to that economic value.

And although I can’t conjure up yet another extra point for this, I would further argue that an informed public is a more upwardly-mobile one. Reading is probably the best way to combat ignorance.

Chime in with your thoughts and impressions on both news items, readers. Differing opinions are welcome!

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3 thoughts on “In the news

  1. I find the concept of ‘new words’ to be complex, interesting, and frustrating all at the same time.

    The best example, for me, is the word ‘gleek.’ I don’t feel like it is worthy of having a dictionary entry, yet it is in common usage. Ultimately isn’t the purpose of language to serve those who use it? So if my wife says the word ‘gleek’ and I know what she is saying, it is a word; whether I feel it is worthy or not.

    As an aside, what’s up with ‘app’ being voted the best new word? ‘App’ is not a word but an abbreviation for ‘application.’

    Language develops organically, it seems, even if it would be nice to have some kind of regulatory board to weed out the ridiculous.

  2. Sorry, one more comment. I think words should be ineligible as word of the year if they are just a reappropriation of an existing word: i.e. double-dip.

  3. Thanks for your comments, Ben!

    I would agree that “gleek” isn’t ordinary-dictionary worthy mainly because it’s trendy and not likely to stick in the long run. But for a dictionary that does a complete cataloging (OED), we’re just gonna have to give it a pass.

    As for new uses not being eligible, I would tend to agree but guess that depends on who’s making the decision and what they say are the rules. The Urban Dictionary choices were not even single words at all but phrases. Ah well. These things are mostly for fun and, as the LSA emphasizes, to call attention to language and what the society does. And perhaps, just a little, to irritate language purists and thus keep the academic discussion in the headlines!

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