2002 Words of the Year

The grim forebodings of the past year were reflected in the American Dialect Society’s choice of weapons of mass destruction and its abbreviation WMD as word (or phrase) of the year 2002.

In the 13th annual vote among members and friends of the society, conducted this time in Atlanta Jan. 3 during the society’s annual meeting, weapons of mass destruction received 38 votes of the approximately 60 cast. Vote numbers are approximate because voting was by show of hands.

Other candidates for Word of the Year were:

google (verb)—to search the Web using the search engine Google for information on a person or thing: 11 votes.

blog—from weblog, a website of personal events, comments, and links: 6 votes.

Amber alert—public announcement of a missing child: 4 votes.

regime change—forced change in leadership: 3 votes.

Words of the Year are those that reflect the concerns and preoccupations of the year gone by. They need not be new, but they usually are newly prominent.

Before the voting on Word of the Year, words were also chosen in particular categories. These were the categories for 2002:

Most likely to succeed: blog (30 votes). Other candidates: Amber alert (20); Axis of _____, alliance (8); teen angstrel, angst-ridden popular singer (1).

Most useful: google (verb). All 60 votes in this category were for this word. Other candidates, with no votes, were: dataveillance, surveillance using computer data; the prefix war- as in wardriving or warchalking, finding locations for unauthorized wireless Internet access; My big fat ______; like no other, extremely.

Most creative: Iraqnophobia, strong fear of Iraq (38 votes in a runoff). Other candidate in the runoff: walking pinata, a person subject to relentless criticism, most recently Trent Lott (25). Other candidates in the first vote: dialarhoea, inadvertent dialing of a cell phone in a pocket or handbag (8); 201 (k), a 401 (k) retirement account ruined by stock losses (8); apatheist, someone believing that God or gods exist but are not of any use (7).

Most unnecessary: wombanization, feminization, from Alexander Barnes’ book The Book Read Backwards: The Deconstruction of Patriarchy and the Wombanization of Being (46 votes). Other candidates: Saddameter, meter on television showing daily likelihood of war with Iraq (13); virtuecrat, person both politically correct and morally righteous (10); black tide, large-scale oil pollution at sea (0).

Most outrageous: Neuticles, fake testicles for neutered pets (40 votes in a runoff). Other candidate in the runoff: grid butt, marks left on the buttocks by fishnet pantyhose (30). Other candidates in the first vote: sausage fest, slang term for a party with more males than females (7); diabulimia, loss of weight by a diabetic skipping insulin doses (3); Botox party, party at which a physician injects guests with Botox (2); comprendo-challenged, unable to understand the U.S. Constitution (0).

Most euphemistic: regime change (38 votes). Other candidates: V card, slang term for virginity (14); newater, sewage water purified and recycled into the fresh water system (7); unorthodox entrepreneur, panhandler, prostitute, or drug dealer in a Vancouver park (4); Enronomics, fraudulent business and accounting practices (1); dirty bomb, conventional bomb laced with radioactive material (0).

In the previous year, the special category Most Inspirational had been added to incorporate Todd Beamer’s Let’s roll! attacking the hijackers of United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. For 2002, President Bush’s embetterment as in the embetterment of mankind was proposed as justifying another Most Inspirational, but it was rejected 45 votes to 12. Another candidate for Most Inspirational was proposed, grid butt, the runner-up in the Most Outrageous category, but the chair, who favored embetterment, arbitrarily ruled it out of order.