‘Surge,’ ‘pluto’ top group’s list of note­wor­thy words of the past year

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jen­nifer Harper

The word “surge” — com­bined most of­ten with “troop” rather than “storm” or “power” th­ese days — has con­sid­er­able po­lit­i­cal cur­rency and has been named one of last year’s most note­wor­thy words by the Amer­i­can Di­alect So­ci­ety.

It joins “pluto”, “Fox lips” and 30 other terms-du-jour on the group’s 17th an­nual list of words “newly prom­i­nent” in Amer­i­can cul­ture.

“A lot of our mem­ber­ship tends to lean to the left and are very sen- sitive to the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s use of the word ‘surge.’ They be­lieve it is a way to hide a hard re­al­ity un­der some­thing that seems much more ac­cept­able,” said Wayne Glowka, an English pro­fes­sor at Ge­or­gia Col­lege & State Univer­sity, who led the so­ci­ety’s 2006 word search.

In­deed, surge, de­fined as “an in­crease in troop strength,” was named among the year’s most eu­phemistic words, along with wa­ter­board­ing, a form of tor­ture meant to “sim­u­late drown­ing.”

Surge, which pops up end­lessly in press re­ports, has its crit­ics.

“Democrats are seek­ing to cast surge as an es­ca­la­tion of the un­pop­u­lar Iraq war. But a se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial says the White House views a po­ten­tial surge as part of a broader po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic strat­egy,” noted CNN correspondent Elaine Qui­jano on Jan. 8.

“Why ‘surge’? Why not ‘es­ca­late’? Waves surge and de­cline. Es­ca­la­tion sounds long term,” noted the net­work’s po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Bill Sch­nei­der on Jan. 5. “What­ever you call it, send­ing more troops would pro­voke a po­lit­i­cal firestorm.”

Though the surge phe­nom­e­non has been men­tioned in spo­radic press re­ports since April, jour­nal­ists did not go surge crazy un­til De­cem­ber af­ter the Iraq Study Group re­leased its re­port.

For all the fuss, surge is not the of­fi­cial Word of the Year, ac­cord­ing to the as­sorted et­y­mol­o­gists, gram­mar­i­ans and schol­ars who make up the 117-year-old Amer­i­can Di­alect So­ci­ety. That honor goes to pluto, mean­ing “to demote or de­value some­one or some­thing,” in­spired by the In­ter­na­tional As­tro­nom­i­cal Union’s rul­ing in the sum­mer that Pluto was no longer a planet.

“I be­lieve the nom­i­na­tion came in from outer space,” Mr. Glowka quipped.

Mean­while, “Fox lips” was deemed one of the most un­nec­es­sary terms, mean­ing “lips col­ored and lined with makeup to seem more prom­i­nent, said of fe­male an­chors on Fox News,” the so­ci­ety noted in its awards an­nounce­ment.

“Cam­bo­dian ac­ces­sory,” de­fined as “An­gelina Jolie’s adopted child who is Cam­bo­dian,” was deemed most out­ra­geous, while “cli­mate ca­nary” was cited as most use­ful. Mr. Glowka said the phrase means “an or­gan­ism or species whose poor health or de­clin­ing num­bers hint at a larger en­vi­ron­men­tal catas­tro­phe.”

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