The Googleganger experienced connectile dysfunction with the vegansexual when he showed up with a subprime strike beard.

Brian Merlos

In other words.

There are no other words, at least according to voters in the American Dialect Society’s 2007 Words of the Year nominations. In a dining room of a Chicago hotel over the weekend of Jan. 4, the society called together linguistic aficionados from across the country to debate which words and phrases best defined, or were best defined by, the happenings of 2007. The results of the nominations provide a window into the hopes and fears of the collective consciousness in 2007, but they also sanction the composition of that first sentence – something that could make you worry about the devolution of the English language.

English Prof. Richard Bailey and Linguistics Prof. Robin Queen think modern rhetoric adaptations – no matter how deformed – are something to celebrate. Bailey and Queen both attended this year’s gathering, as well as the conventions of the last several years. For professors of their academic vein, the Words of the Year nominations is a chance to reunite with word-nerd friends and foes. An opportunity to champion their favorite new usages in hopes of having one named “word of the year” over the nominees of their peers.

And there’s an open bar.

“It’s very much: ‘As my venerable colleague says. Dadadada. but I disagree,’ ” Queen said. “It’s very playful.”

The nomination process involves categories like most useful, most euphemistic, most unnecessary and usually a special category – the year that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were with child that last grouping was Tom Cruise-related words, this year is was real estate lingo. The special category spawned the winning word of 2007 “subprime.” The primacy of subprime, used to describe a risky loan or mortgage, along with the list’s other terms, suggests the anxiety and news coverage surrounding a down-and-out realty market. Another term on the list, N.I.N.J.A stands for a potential borrower with no income, no job or assets.

But subprime’s influence doesn’t end at real estate, Queen said. People have taken the term to mean anything that could be better, such as a class or a boyfriend. It’s this versatility that marks a noteworthy word, Queen said. A good new word fills a lacking niche – much like the word “niche” once did.

In a change from the society’s first nominations convention, in 1990, many nominations in recent years have had roots in Internet slang and global warming rhetoric, like lolcat and the prefix green. But not all of ’90s buzzwords have become obsolete, even if they aren’t used as often as they could be. The nominations of 1990 foresaw the character of the Internet age (the most useful word was technostupidity, meaning loss of ability through dependence on machines) as well as forewarned of a current political plight (the word of the year was Bushlips, meaning insincere political rhetoric).

Though the American Dialect Society’s nominations generally draw the most diehard linguistic junkies, anyone can vote. Queen said someone who seemed like a college student attended this year to make a case for the verb “facebook.”

“She really thought it captured youth or the spirit of youth – alas, she wasn’t successful,” Queen said.

Who ever said young people were responsible for the propagation of crazy slang?

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