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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 01/11/2010

'Word of decade': Google? 9/11?

By Valerie Strauss

Since the American Dialect Society named “google” as the word that best describes the past decade, I keep asking people if they would have picked one of the contenders instead: “9/11,” "green," "blog," "text" and "war on terror."

Some liked “google,” others “9/11,” and one chose “global warming,” which was actually the “word of the decade” picked by the Global Language Monitor, which analyzes and tracks language trends.

Opinion was not unanimous either, on some of the other words selected by the dialect society, including the decade’s most creative word word--“Dracula sneeze”--and the most euphemistic--“the Appalachian trail (see explanations below).

A Post story by my colleague Dan Zak reports on the society’s amusing deliberations, which a few days ago settled on “google,” the generic form of “Google,” meaning to search the Internet.

For the word of 2009, society members picked “tweet” (which as a noun is a short message sent via the service, and as a verb is the act of sending such a message).

The dialect society, founded in 1889, is dedicated to the study of the English language in North America, and of other languages, or dialects of other languages, influencing it or influenced by it.

Other society word winners:

Most useful word: “fail,” a noun or interjection used when something is especially unsuccessful.

Most creative word: “Dracula sneeze,” which means covering one’s mouth with the crook of one’s elbow when sneezing to avoid passing germs. (That’s the way the vampire Dracula has often been portrayed)

Most unnecessary word: “sea kittens,” which means fish according to the animal rights organization PETA (according to PETA)

(That beat out “birther,” a person who does not believe President Obama was born in the United States and is not qualified to be president. And it beat out “Salahi,” which means to gate-crash, in honor of Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who crashed a White House event.)

Most outrageous word: “death panel,” A supposed committed of doctors and/or bureaucrats who would decide which patients would get treatment and which would not.

Most euphemistic word: “the Appalachian trail,” which is now often used to mean going away to have sex with an illict lover, as South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted doing while saying he was going hiking on the Appalachian trail.

Word most likely to succeed: “twenty-ten,” as a pronunciation of the year 2010, as opposed to saying “two thousand ten” or “two thousand and ten.”

Word least likely to succeed: Any name of the decade 2000-2009, such as Naughties, Aughties, Oughties, etc.

Which word would you pick for word of the decade? I’m leaning toward “9/11” or "green" but could be talked out of it.

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By Valerie Strauss  | January 11, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Reading  | Tags:  literacy  
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