Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

Word of the Year 2006

Insurgents. Sectarian. Dwarf planet. Podcast. Islamofascism. Reggaeton. Sudoku.

Some of these are dated already, but one may yet be the 2006 Word of the Year.

"Quaqmire"--sorry, that landed second place back in 2003. Was it clear even then?

The people who publish the big red dictionary that's on many an office desk are conducting a survey to determine the Word of the Year, and the very existence of the contest tells us something about this year and where we're headed as a society. In previous years, Merriam-Webster relied on its scholars to determine the word that told us the most about what we'd just been through. This year, in keeping with the faux-democratization of everything from the news to museum curating to pop music, the dictionary company is making its choice by popular vote.

Last year, Merriam-Webster settled on "integrity" as Word One; back in 2004, it was "blog."
In another, similar contest, the American DIalect Society last year picked "truthiness" as its 2005 Word of the Year. In that vein, "decider" might take this year's honors.

The folks at the New Oxford American English Dictionary beat the competition with an early decision--no polling necessary, they let their experts make the choice--naming "carbon neutral" as the 2006 winner. The term refers to the effort by some folks to calculate their contribution to the carbon emissions that warm the globe, and then find ways to eliminate some of those emissions.

The Oxford folks tend toward rather more obscure words and terms than Webster generally honors. Where Webster's runners-up last year included "refugee," "contempt," "filibuster," and "insipid," the Oxford list for this year includes head-scratchers such as "ghostriding," the practice of leaving your car and dancing next to or on top of it while it's still moving, and "elbow bump," a World Health Organization-endorsed method of greeting another human being by touching elbows rather than shaking hands, the better to avoid nasty germs.

Me, I'll take the nasty germs and leave the elbow bumps to the decider, the insurgents and the Islamofascists.

My Word of the Year? Since a phrase and not just a single word seems to be good enough for the folks at Oxford, I will go with "person of interest," the increasingly used weasel word that law enforcement types trot out to smear someone against whom they don't actually have decent evidence. Now there's a word that wouldn't even exist if it weren't for the craven desire of all too many of us to get our 15 minutes on TV, or at least on a coupla blogs.

What's your Word of the Year?

By Marc Fisher |  December 1, 2006; 7:44 AM ET
Previous: Fairfax to Poor: Let Them Eat Ganache | Next: Does the Post Slight Virginia?


Please email us to report offensive comments.

Fo' shizzle.

Posted by: There it is | December 1, 2006 8:22 AM


Posted by: WFY | December 1, 2006 8:26 AM

Weather event

Posted by: slm | December 1, 2006 8:43 AM


Posted by: MattF | December 1, 2006 8:46 AM


Posted by: B's Big Fan | December 1, 2006 9:09 AM


Posted by: CallMeSkeptical | December 1, 2006 9:14 AM

The fact of the matter is that in this day and age I can't get enough of DIGITAL REALITY!

Posted by: kurosawaguy | December 1, 2006 9:42 AM

Climate change

Posted by: Josh | December 1, 2006 9:51 AM


Posted by: Not Dan Savage | December 1, 2006 9:51 AM

tipping point

Posted by: MarkT | December 1, 2006 9:52 AM

Tai Shan

Posted by: #1 fan | December 1, 2006 10:02 AM


Posted by: run like hell!!!! | December 1, 2006 10:09 AM


Posted by: k-fed | December 1, 2006 10:15 AM

Reggaeton? That was so two years ago... which means the Post's Laura Sessions Stepp will be writing something about it two years from now.

Instead of a word, how about the fact that everyone adds -ization of the end of things now.

Posted by: Adams Morgan | December 1, 2006 10:25 AM

Macaca - the point at which a viable and bright political future takes a dive

Analagous to the term Jump the Shark for television series.

Did Kerry macaca with his botched joke? No, he macacaed long before that when he let Bush win a debate.

George H.W. Bush macacaed when he puked on the president of Japan.

Of course, the ultimate macaca would be the senior senator from Massachusetts who macacaed but good in Chappaquiddick.

Posted by: Amy | December 1, 2006 10:27 AM

podcast (whatever the hell that is)

Posted by: old guy | December 1, 2006 10:35 AM

It must be the ubiquitous "blogosphere"

Posted by: jmsbh | December 1, 2006 10:38 AM


Posted by: fan #2 | December 1, 2006 10:42 AM


Posted by: booyah | December 1, 2006 10:43 AM


Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 10:47 AM


Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 10:52 AM


Posted by: Pontifex | December 1, 2006 11:15 AM


Posted by: Slangwhanger-in-Chief | December 1, 2006 11:29 AM

sorry. it's a two-word phrase, actually. "Christianist rightards."

Posted by: Slangwhanger-in-Chief | December 1, 2006 11:33 AM

I would like to second "popozao."

Posted by: h3 | December 1, 2006 11:36 AM

I'm torn between "partisan gunslinger" and "stay the course"

Posted by: beguile | December 1, 2006 11:46 AM

Cyber Monday

Posted by: Ho-Ho-Ho | December 1, 2006 11:48 AM


Posted by: Borat | December 1, 2006 12:09 PM

Lake Superior State University prepares and publishes an annual list of overused words. Check out:

and see the archive of annual lists.

No sense inventing a new wheel when you don't have they; they invented the wheel.

Posted by: Jeff | December 1, 2006 12:18 PM


Posted by: having fun | December 1, 2006 12:22 PM


The CBS Saturday Early Show is doing this as well:

Posted by: Cosmo | December 1, 2006 12:22 PM

The word of 2007 will be "handoff", as in we're not withdrawing troops from Iraq, we're doing a security handoff.

Posted by: Tomcat | December 1, 2006 12:38 PM

news worthy

Posted by: WB | December 1, 2006 12:43 PM

Macaca. Definitely macaca. The one word which tipped the balance of the congress into the hands of the Democrats.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 12:54 PM

popozao! a rockstar nomination... i second it.

Posted by: yo | December 1, 2006 1:20 PM


Posted by: techweenie | December 1, 2006 2:06 PM

Bush's world view of Iraq is "Disney-like".

"Net Net" people are dying every day in Iraq.

That idea is "right in the strike zone".

But the Republicans have "run that play one too many times".

Posted by: Some Guy | December 1, 2006 2:11 PM


Posted by: Cordelia's Dad | December 1, 2006 2:43 PM

"Trap game," from sports jargon.

Posted by: JimTX | December 1, 2006 2:56 PM

You mis-defined "person of interest". It's the increasingly used weasel word that news media types trot out to smear someone when the law enforcement types haven't actually arrested anyone.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 1, 2006 3:05 PM


Posted by: putin | December 1, 2006 3:19 PM

stay the course

Posted by: b | December 1, 2006 3:30 PM


Posted by: b | December 1, 2006 3:36 PM

If not macaca, then RoveStorm (or variant Rovian)or value-added.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 1, 2006 4:20 PM

Nobody has yet suggested "waterboarding."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | December 1, 2006 4:24 PM

Reality check

Posted by: SS MD | December 1, 2006 5:07 PM

Many good suggestions here. Some of them (waterboarding, Christianist) are good words for bad phenomena.

Others: exit strategy, phased withdrawal, IED . . . I know there are others, but apparently they're not so central that they're on the tip of my tongue.

It's amazing how fast terminology that appears in the news finds its way into the culture and, equally rapidly, become tired and lose their effect. Who knew we'd be hearing "sectarian violence" so often? Even more common are "Sunni" and "Shi'ite," both widely used and, I suspect, much less widely understood. Unfortunately, those terms are not likely to become part of the background as rapidly as some.

Posted by: THS | December 1, 2006 5:42 PM

reinventing the wheel

Posted by: TBG | December 2, 2006 10:24 AM


Posted by: Anonymous | December 3, 2006 11:15 PM


Posted by: SRG | December 3, 2006 11:16 PM

Ted Haggard's speed-and-prostitute induced santorum was full of macaca.

Posted by: Get it? | December 4, 2006 10:42 AM

YouTube. Without it, you wouldn't know about macaca.

Posted by: dirrtysw | December 4, 2006 4:58 PM


Posted by: CarpeNoctem | December 4, 2006 5:34 PM

As for expressions; please, do not use "...rearranging deck chairs on the titanic" or " herding cats" anymore.

Also, everyone should stop using the word 'paranoid' as anything other than the mental disorder that it is; i.e., a BELIEF that one or more people are surreptitiously taking action to harm you. I keep hearing people say things like "I'm paranoid that I won't make the party on time." No, you're not.

Please stop.

Posted by: ChrisM | December 5, 2006 1:11 PM


Posted by: StirliQ | December 6, 2006 1:50 PM

I'll take petulant for $100, Alec.

Posted by: RL | December 11, 2006 1:13 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company