Take a bow, Al: ‘Car­bon neu­tral’ called hottest new word of 2006

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

Just in time for hol­i­day party chitchat, it’s the of­fi­cial 2006 Word of the Year, named on Nov. 13 by the New Ox­ford Amer­i­can Dic­tionary. The big win­ner is not one word, but two: “car­bon neu­tral,” mean­ing a lifestyle­sen­si­tive­to­cli­matedam­age.

The “car­bon neu­tral” among us drive hy­brid cars, use flu­o­res­cent lights,dry­their­laun­dry­ona­clothes­line, in­vest in “green” busi­nesses and ap­plaud so­lar power. For­mer VicePres­i­den­tAlGore­wore­out­the term this year in pub­lic speeches, not­to­men­tion­his­doc­u­men­tary“An In­con­ve­nient Truth.” He even de­viseda“car­bon­cal­cu­la­tor”forthose whowant­tofig­ure­outwhethertheir fos­sil-fu­eled ways con­trib­ute to global warm­ing.

“This is kind of the World Se­ries for us,” said Erin McKean, ed­i­tor in chiefofthe250,000-en­try­dic­tionary. “We look for words which are im­por­tant lex­i­cally and cul­tur­ally. We each keep a run­ning list, then we sit down and ar­gue.”

She led an edi­to­rial team that combed through news sto­ries, blogs, tech­ni­cal jour­nals and other sources to fer­ret out this year’s crop of words that best de­fined cul­tural mo­ments.Car­bon­neu­tral—cho­sen as a prime ex­am­ple of “the green­ing of our cul­ture and our lan­guage’ —will­beadded­toanup­datesched­uled for 2007.

“Oc­ca­sion­ally,twoor­more­words team up to be used as one, and they have their own gram­mat­i­cal re­quire­ments. You can’t say, for exam- ple, ‘car­bon very neu­tral.’ You must say‘verycar­bon­neu­tral,’”Ms.McKean said, adding that one of the al­so­rans last year had three words — “per­sis­tent veg­e­ta­tive state.”

Mean­while, run­ners-up for the top et­y­mo­log­i­cal honor in­clude “CSA” (com­mu­nity-sup­ported agri­cul­ture),“DRM”(dig­i­tal­rights­man­age­ment),“dwarf­planet”(plan­et­like ob­jectssuchasP­luto),“el­bow­bump” (the hand­shake al­ter­na­tive for hypochon­dri­ac­sand“rec­om­mended bytheWorldHealthOr­ga­ni­za­tion”), and “fisha­pod,” a newly dis­cov­ered fos­sil that has fea­tures of both fish and land mam­mals.

There’salso“pregam­ing,”or­booz­ing­be­fore­at­tendin­gas­port­sev­en­tor party where al­co­hol is banned or in short sup­ply. Last but not least, there’s “Is­lam­ofas­cism,” which the edi­to­rial team deemed “a con­tro­ver­sial term” equat­ing mod­ern Is­lamic move­ments with Euro­pean fas­cist move­ments of the early 20th cen­tury.

There is some com­pe­ti­tion out there­torec­og­nizethe­buz­zwordsdu jour,though—aw­hole­dic­tionary,in fact.JohnWal­ston’snew­ly­pub­lished “TheBuz­zwordDic­tionary”de­mys­ti­fies1,000ex­am­ple­sofwhathe­calls “pompous jar­gon.”

Among the new­est of­fer­ings: “M&Ms,” or “en­try-level em­ploy­ees freshout­of­col­lege­who­fan­cythem­selves ‘ man­age­ment ma­te­rial,’ ” “SEP” (some­one else’s prob­lem), “job spill” (when work cuts into per­son­al­time),“YOYO”(You’re­onY­our Own) and “flog” — a fake blog cre­at­ed­sole­ly­for­pro­mo­tion­alpur­poses by un­scrupu­lous pro­mot­ers.

Speak­ing his lan­guage: Al Gore

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