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Associated Press Reports that "EXOPOLITICS" Nominated for 2005 "Word of the Year"

The Associated Press reported on January 3, 2006 that "EXOPOLITICS" was nominated as one of the "Words of the Year" for 2006.

(Click here for full press release)

Words of the Year 2005 Preview

For the past 15 years, the 116-year-old American Dialect Society has chosen Words of the Year—a word or phrase that best reflects the language and preoccupations of the year gone by. The society will choose its Words of the Year 2005 on January 6, 2006, at its annual meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The public and representatives of the media are invited to join members and friends of the American Dialect Society as they discuss and vote on the words and phrases that are most salient and representative of the past year. The ADS vote is the longest-running “words of the year” vote and the only one conducted by an non-commercial entity.


January 3, 2006



If someone is talking about exopolitics, don't jump the couch. Your whale tail might show.


Modern word lovers are not.

Pick Word / Phrase of the Year
- Exopolitics: art of dealing with space aliens.
- Jump the couch: Tom Cruise inspired when he jumped atop Oprah's sofa and proclaimed his love for actress Katie Holmes.
- Whale tail: the appearance of your underwear over your waistband.
- Nuclear option: most extreme course of action in the U.S. Senate.
- Rendition: transfer of a person for interrogation by a foreign power, especially for torture.
- Spim: instant-messaging spam
Vote on your choice for the Word / Phrase of the Year among these choices:
Whale tail
Jump the couch
Nuclear option
Poll Archive | Total votes: 93
These are just a few of the contenders for the American Dialect Society's 2005 word or phrase of the year.

A brief primer:

Exopolitics is the art of dealing with space aliens.

Tom Cruise inspired the couch phrase for bizarre behavior when he jumped atop Oprah's sofa and proclaimed his love for actress Katie Holmes.

And a whale tail, well, that is the appearance of your underwear over your waistband.

The American Dialect Society will name the word winners at a conference Friday in Albuquerque.

Honors will also be given to the most creative, unnecessary and euphemistic words, as well as those that are likely just a fad (hanging chad) and those that will last (blog).

It's the perfect New Year's event, chock-full of changing times, a glance into the past and predictions of the future.

''Language changes as things change because it adapts to changing realities,'' said Dennis Baron, society member and professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. ''Our emphases change.''

Baron favors the term ''roadside bomb'' for the 2005 word of the year. Not funny or popular, but nary a day goes by without a report of carnage created by one of these explosive devices.

''Chick flick'' sticks

These are cutting-edge words, so new that few, if any, have made it into a modern dictionary.

It takes a while, you see.

''Bikini wax'' and ''brain freeze'' finally hit Merriam-Webster's 11th Edition Collegiate Dictionary in 2005.

More recently, ''chick flick'' and ''civil union'' made it, too. As did cybrarian, a person whose job is to find, collect and manage information available on the World Wide Web.

Sometimes terms take on new meanings, and lose old ones. Some become stale in less time than it took to gain prominence.

''Something is cool and then a little while later it's hot, and it's the same thing,'' said Gretchen Buntschuh, former English department head at Sturgis Charter School in Hyannis.

Others stay long past their time. ''Who knew that after Watergate, the ''-gate'' suffix would spawn so many other gates?'' Baron said.

Even the terms for modern inventions hold past lives. Consider computer.

When it came about in 1646, the word had nothing to do with Apple, IBM or Dell. It simply defined a person who computes.

Borrowed from the French, the word modified the Latin computare, which means to count or sum up, according to the Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology.

But by 1946, computer referred to the almighty machines, according to the Web site dictionary.com.

Noah wordster

It's not a new thing, this adding of words.

The first American dictionary was compiled by Noah Webster in 1806. Several publications followed, including the 1828 ''American Dictionary of the English Language,'' with more than 70,000 entries.

Merriam-Webster's latest dictionary now holds more than 476,000 entries and 700,000 definitions.

Webster's later work was the first to include distinctively American terms, including as skunk and chowder.

Those words stuck. His spelling suggestions for tongue (tung) and women (wimmen), did not, according to Merriam-Webster. ''There have been lots of words that we have lost,'' Baron said.

The Sturgis library in Barnstable has a copy of Worcester's Dictionary published in 1866, a rival of Webster's. It holds many words long forgotten, and proof that words morphed through the ages.

For instance, the abbreviation ''AAM'' used to stand for a Dutch liquid measure. Today, Webster's says it means air-to-air missile.

In 1866 people were concerned about proper speaking, as illustrated by the word acyrology, a noun for careless or improper diction. Not so in 2001. A Webster's dictionary from that year has no definition for the term.

The passing of nizy

Some perfectly good words have fallen out of favor.

Take, for instance, abature, the term that defines spires of grass trodden down by a stag in passing. Perhaps it's just no longer needed in this modern world, but there might be some cowboys out there itching for a nifty term for broken grass.

And who couldn't use nizy? It's the old-world term for a dunce or simpleton.

The same goes for irp, the old term for a fantastic grimace.

Both old and new dictionaries have smirk and smite, but only the 2001 one includes snafu, a term best looked up at home.

Not surprisingly, Worcester's dictionary has web and webby, even web eye (occluded vision), but no Web page, Web site or World Wide Web.

Vicky Uminowicv, manager of Titcomb's Book Shop in East Sandwich, prefers old spelling books when looking for keys to the past. In an 1815 spelling book religious words were not uncommon.

Smite and sinner were popular. ''It's a word everybody knows, but it's not something you learn early on,'' she said of smite.

And sinner: ''How often do you see that in a school spelling book?''

Emily C. Dooley can be reached at [email protected].

(Published: January 3, 2006)


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