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How the American Dialect Society Chooses its Words of the Year o; Wayne Glowka Reinhardt College I? aJanuary morning when the temperature in the North Georgia mountains was down to around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, I stood in a dark parking lot at Reinhardt College and searched up and down GA route 140, looking for a limousine. The car was to be sent fifty miles to Waleska, GA to pick me up at 6:00 am for a live interview at 7:45 am in Atlanta on Fox Business News. The subject of the interview was to be the word subprime, the American Dialect Society 's Word of the Year (ADS WOTY) for 2007.1 The limousine was late because the New York television producer had insisted on a street address for the pick up. But a description of the flag plaza in front of the administration building two hundred yards on the right past the only blinking red light in Waleska would have been a more efficient way of finding me. As I stood shivering in the dark, I worried that I would miss my interview, and I longed for the warm bed I had left nearly two hours earlier . I also wondered if I was putting myself out to be on television once more to discuss die word of the year with reporters who were going to offer me to their millions of viewers as some kind of bizarre specimen from academe. Soon enough, however, the black Lincoln Continental with very comfortable leather seats arrived to deliver me to Atlanta. One can see the complete list of WOTYs on the website of the ADS: . Dictionaries:Journal oftheDictionary Society ofNorth America 29 (2008), 23-34. 24Wayne Glowka In the intervals among exchanges of small talk with the driver, I practiced the sound-bite answers the producer had instructed me to develop after a practice interview on the telephone on the day before. The hardest answer to reduce to television-appropriate size had to do with how the ADS chooses its WOTYs. I had explained on the telephone that I and others collected terms throughout the year that we think might make good candidates for words of the year; that we did research on the words to see how old they were and how widely they were used; that we circulated these words among ourselves and members of the press before the annual meeting, where words of the year are chosen; that we held a meeting to review lists of possible nominations , decided on categories for the nomination, and then placed the nominations in categories; that we then prepared a slate of nominees for distribution; that we met in a larger setting and allowed members of the audience to make speeches about the words on the slate and to nominate others; that we determined the winners by a show of hands; and that we then took nominations for the WOTY from winners or losers in the categories and also entertained nominations that had not succeeded in being included in the list. The producer bluntly told me that such an answer was acceptable for National Public Radio, but it certainly would not do for television. He needed a short and direct answer to the question. I told him that I would work on such an answer. As I was perched in the Atlanta television studio under hot lights on a stool in front of a shelf of books meant to give my answers authority, I practiced that answer until the interview began with the lively morning crew of Fox Business News. When I was asked about the process of choosing the words of the year, I answered with all the succinctness I could muster: "Well, I and others collect new words throughout the year. We present our nominees to a committee at our annual meeting. We prepare a slate of candidates in categories like 'Most Likely to Succeed' or 'Most Outrageous.' At a larger meeting the next day, we allow audience members to make funny speeches in support of words, and then we vote by a show of hands. The word of the year comes from a list of nominees taken from...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 23-34
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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