2000 Words of the Year

Chad perfused the voting for overall Word of the Year 2000 at the American Dialect Society’s meeting in Washington, D.C. January 5. In the annual choice of the word or phrase that was most notable or prominent in the year gone by, chad earned 43 votes, compared to just 6 for muggle, not only the Harry Potter term for a non-wizard but more broadly a mundane, unimaginative person, and just three votes for dot bomb, defined as a failed dot-com.

Before that final vote, Words of the Year were chosen in these eight categories, with approximate votes for each:

Most Outrageous: wall humping (30), rubbing a thigh against a security card scanner to allow access without the inconvenience of removing the card from one’s pocket. Other candidates: starter castle (10), a dot-commer’s first house, and McMansion (6), a big new home in incredibly bad taste.

Most Euphemistic: courtesy call (37), an uninvited call from a telemarketer. Other candidates: Supreme Court justice (14), reflecting a disenchanted view of the presidential election, and klabokeys (2; see below).

Most Likely to Succeed: muggle (27). Other candidates: m-commerce (14), buying and selling over a cell phone, and WAP (3), Wireless Application Protocol, a specification that enables wireless devices to connect with one another.

Most Useful: civil union (40), legal same-sex marriage. Other candidates: bricks-and-clicks (10), a traditional business with a website, and c.u. (5), to join a couple in civil union.

Most Creative: dot bomb (31). Other candidates: blobject (19), a product like the iMac with curvilinear design; dot snot (12), a young dot-com millionaire; megawatt laundering (5), interstate buying and selling of electricity to avoid state price controls; Sore Loserman (5), respelling of Gore-Lieberman campaign poster, and Nader trader or Nader traitor (5), a supporter of Ralph Nader in a state with a close race between Gore and Bush who would vote for Gore in return for a Gore supporter in another state voting for Nader.

Most Unnecessary: sudden loss of wealth syndrome (31) which pretty well defines itself. Other candidates: scootermania (10), obsession with foot-powered scooters, and Floridate (0), spoil the orderliness of an election.

Least Likely to Succeed: kablokeys (26), a hard-to-pronounce and obscure word used in phrases like It scared the kablokeys out of me. Other candidates: subliminable (10), Saturday Night Live spoof of G.W. Bush pronunciation, and malaphrophesizing 10), predictions phrased in malapropisms.

Most of the candidates for Word of the Year have been around for some time but not particularly well known. Chad is a good example: Teletype operators used the term more than 50 years ago, but only with the Florida recount did the word become generally recognized. There are, however, some brand new words every year. The winner in the Brand-Spanking New category was unconcede (38), to rescind a concession, as Gore did on election night. Another candidate was cell yell (16), loud talking on a cell phone. Subsequent sleuthing by ADS etymologists determined that these words were in fact not brand new either.