Ever since I was a young lad working at the library, I’ve been aware of the American Dialect Society (http://www.americandialect.org/). The most interesting thing about the ADS is that each year, it’s members vote on what they call the “Word of the Year”. It might be a new word that was coined by a politician or singer, it might be a word that adopted a new meaning, or it might be an old word that suddenly resurged in popularity. Sometimes the ‘word’ of the year is actually two words that, when put together, have a new meaning.
I love this idea. The words they select for each year are quite a reflection of the times. For example, in 1992, they selected “Not”, the over-used put-down popularized by the Saturday Night Live sketch “Wayne’s World”. In 2000, they selected “Chad” – a word so defunct that Oxford was considering dropping it from the next edition of their dictionary, until the voting fiasco in Florida gave the word new life.
So, in 1999, I began selecting my own personal “Word of the Year”. Like the ADS, my choice can be a word I never heard before, or one that suddenly surged in popularity for me personally (for whatever reason). Since 2007 is all but over, I’ve once again added to my list. Here it is, with brief explanations…
1999 – Filmlet
I was tired of calling my short films “Zimmerscope Productions”, so I flipped through the dictionary looking for a new film-related word. I found “filmlet”, which is a term used to describe any motion picture under 60 minutes long. I loved how underused it is – I swear I’ve never heard anyone else use this word besides me.
2000 – Viscosity
I’m sure I’d heard this word before, and I’d definitely heard its root word, viscous. But until I took a class on laboratory technology, I never appreciated this word for all it was worth. I loved performing viscosity tests – both in college and at my previous job. I throw this word around whenever I can. [runner-up: Flyboat]
2001 – Denouement
Another word I learned in college. Despite reading dozens of books about motion pictures, I never knew what to call that last part of the film, you know – the part after the climax. I used to just call it “the ending”. But then I was taught this word, which practically screams ‘pretentious!’, and all was right with the world.
2002 – GMP
Okay, so it’s not a word. But by ADS guidelines, I can still use it. It’s an abbreviation for Good Manufacturing Procedures, which is a nice way of saying the FDA forces food and drug manufacturers to be anal to the point of neurosis. I hate the yearly GMP classes I have to attend, and I hate laboring under its rules. Nevertheless, it’s been a big player in my vocabulary from 2002 onwards.
2003 – Environmental Monitoring
Worried about a possible lay-off at my job, I offered my services in the microbiology lab, hoping to make myself twice as useful. It worked, and I never did get laid-off. For several days out of each month in 2003 (and into 2004), I ventured with the microbiologists as we went out environmental monitoring.
2004 – Big Lake
Despite the fact that I never lived more than 2 hours from Big Lake, I’d never heard of it until our realtor began showing us property there. By mid-summer, I was living there. [runner-up: Doula]
2005 – Cephalohematoma
Nothing says smarmy health care professional like knowing the technical name for a lump on a newborn’s head. When I told people my son was born with cephalohematoma, most of them immediately adopted an air of sympathy, as if I’d just given them the gravest news ever.
2006 – Cognitive Dissonance
Thanks to the Watchtower Society’s inability to answer questions, provide supporting documentation and misquote, I knew the old farts in Brooklyn were throwing up a smokescreen for years. But it was in this year that my wife helped me appreciate what a Watchtower apologist I’d become. She explained it using this term. [runner-up: Love Bombing]
2007 – Apraxia
Another medically related term, only this time, it sounds like a planet the Star Ship Voyager would land on. It sums up my son’s speech delay (and other quirks) so nicely, my wife and I began wondering if other people we knew also had un-diagnosed apraxia.