American Speech 77.2 (2002) 207-215
WEEKS BEFORE THE AMERICAN DIALECT SOCIETY met in San Francisco to name the 2001 Words of the Year, reporters were on the telephone talking to society members about the likely candidates. There was probably never any doubt among reporters or society members that the attacks on 11 September 2001 and the war prosecuted in Afghanistan against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces would result in important words of the year. And so they did.
Full details of the nominations and the voting results are available (as usual) in NADS (34.1 [Jan. 2002]: 5) and at the society's Web site (http://www.americandialect.org/), but here is a quick summary of the winners:
MOST EUPHEMISTIC:daisy cutter
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED: 9-11
MOST USEFUL:facial profiling and second-hand speech (a tie)
MOST CREATIVE:shuicide bomber
MOST UNNECESSARY:impeachment nostalgia
LEAST LIKELY TO SUCCEED:Osamaniac
MOST INSPIRATIONAL:Let's roll!
WORD OF THE YEAR: 9-11
Through the miracle of on-line databases and the Internet, we have been able to find examples of these terms in use.
Nearly all of them cry out for some comment. The outrageous assoline is apparently not in common use (yet) and to our surprise is a personal name (as in Brazilian soccer player Mauricio Assoline). Voters at the annual meeting of the society were well aware that daisy cutter was not a new term but gave it their vote anyway, since the term was new to them as well as to the general public in 2001. Our list of citations below may be a case of lexicographical overkill, but that is well in keeping with the tenor of the daisy cutter itself. In addition, the citations make interesting (even if admittedly gruesome) reading. The ballot presented at the meeting seemed to imply to some attendees that 9-11 (with a hyphen) was our preferred shorthand form of writing the date of the terrorist attacks, so voters otherwise inclined to vote for the form wanted assurance that reports of the proceedings would note the variety of ways to write that date. Indeed, we have found that most newspapers prefer to write the date with a slash (9/11) instead of with a hyphen (9-11). Since the search mechanism of Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe does not distinguish between the slash and the hyphen (or between the Arabic numerals or the English number words), it was actually a bit time-consuming to find examples with a hyphen. Our treatment of the date does not include the form Sept. 11, partly because of laziness and partly because of a preference for the number/numeral forms, especially since they resonate so eerily with the commonly used emergency number 911. Indeed, after the results of our voting appeared in news reports, we received an e-mail from a concerned citizen who worried that children would become confused by references to the attacks as 9-1-1 or nine-one-one and not call the emergency number in the future for fear of causing buildings to collapse. The tie for most useful included second-hand speech 'overheard cell-phone conversation'. Some research has shown that this meaning was recently given by Faith Popcorn and Adam Hanft's wishful Dictionary of the Future to what is actually a slightly dated term. The spelling shuicide bomber (the spelling used on our ballot) came from Rob Menck, a producer at CBS News Radio New York, who nominated the phrase; in our transcription of Jay Leno's monologue (and thus in our entry), we use the spelling shoe-icide bomber since that spelling appeared in a printed report about the monologue (and, in our opinion, made better sense). We do provide, however, examples of shuicide with a completely different meaning. Impeachment nostalgia is apparently not a widespread phenomenon, but there may be some disagreement about how many Osamaniacs there are. Beyond the apparent coiner (and reporters who gave our voting worldwide publicity from Australia to France), no one else seems to be using the term. We first heard the term in a Rush Limbaugh summary of the article cited from the Sunday...