Tuesday, December 11, 2007

merriam-webster's word of the year: w00t

As if the 2007 word "locavore" was not exciting enough, Merriam-Webster announces their 2007 word of the year - w00t!

Gamers commonly substitute numbers and symbols for the letters they resemble, Morse says, creating what they call "l33t speak" — that's "leet" when spoken, short for "elite" to the rest of the world.

Is this the first word in the dictionary containing digits? :)


Saturday, December 8, 2007

oxford word of the year: locavore

Well, the New Oxford American Dictionary recently announced its "Word of the Year."


It's "locavore."

A "locavore" buys food from farmers’ markets or grows the food him- or herself. This is partially because locavores claim local food tastes better and is healthier, but also to avoid the environmental costs of shipping food over long distances.

“The word ‘locavore’ shows how food-lovers can enjoy what they eat while still appreciating the impact they have on the environment,” said Ben Zimmer, editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press. “It’s significant in that it brings together eating and ecology in a new way.”

“Locavore” was coined two years ago by a group of four women in San Francisco who proposed that local residents should try to eat only food grown or produced within a 100-mile radius.
(I recently ate at a San Francisco restaurant, Fish and Farm, which focuses on sustainable and organic food. Fish and Farm grows all its own herbs and its produce is organic and sourced within a 100-mile radius. Also, whenever possible, so are their meats. )

This is especially interesting for me, since I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, published in May of this year. A combination of this book and living in California with locavore roommates has ignited my interest in local and seasonal food. The book itself chronicles one family's experience as they move to Appalachia to experiment with eating locally for one year. I found myself laughing at their adventures with squash surplus and turkey sex. But more importantly, I found myself thinking about food seasonally and considering the environmental effects of having bananas in December. (Many people want carbon cost labeling on food products.) Most surprisingly, I found myself trying out the recipes at the end of each chapter. And, I ate a persimmon (seasonal in November) for the first time in my life.

Interestingly enough, 2006's Word of the Year was similarly environmentally-themed: carbon-neutral.

Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset: paying to plant new trees or investing in “green” technologies such as solar and wind power.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

how does a word get into the dictionary?

Each year, the Merriam-Webster dictionary has to decide which new words should be added to the dictionary. 2007's additions include crunk, DVR, ginormous, sudoku, speed dating and telenovelas. (2006's new words includes drama queen, unibrow and supersize)

Of course, I always ask, "how does a word make it to the dictionary?"

Many of these words have been around for a while. (In fact,
Merriam-Webster traces ginormous back to 1948, when it appeared in a British dictionary of military slang!) However, just because a word is used, doesn't mean it will make it into the dictionary. Editors who work for the dictionary spend a few hours each day reading magazines, newspapers, and electronic publications, checking for new words or variant spellings of existing words.

If they find a word of interest, they will write a citation for it. Later, definers go through the citations and decide which words should be included. It doesn't matter how often a word is cited, because it may only be found in very specific writings (like only scientific journals or only rap lyrics). To be included in a Merriam-Webster dictionary, a word must have a number of citations that come from a many different types of writing over a long period of time. The word must be used long enough and in enough variety such that the word's meaning is clear.

The number and type of citations needed to add a word to the dictionary varies. In some cases, a word comes on fast and widespread, and its meaning is clear and uncontroverted. This was the case in the 1980s with the word AIDS. In such a situation, the editors may decide to include the word, even though it has not been in use for a long period of time.

Still interested? There's even a "new word watch" blog! (Scroll down to view most recent posts.)


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

palindromes - wierd al style!

A few years ago, I found this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed its contents. A few years later, someone introduced me to the song "Bob" by Wierd Al. Just yesterday, a student sent me a link to the music video! Once again, Wierd Al is clever, weaving together palindromes to create one wacky song!
Palindrome: A word, phrase, or sentence that reads the same backward or forward.

Two of my favorite palindromes are:

drowsy sword, and

oozy rat in a sanitary zoo,

Although after visiting this site, I think I might have a new favorite!

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