Apparently the much publicized Merriam-Webster’s Online Word of the Year Poll has concluded. Oh, you didn’t know it was going on? Well, neither did I but apparently there are at least a small group of people on the internet that determined that the word of the year is w00t.
This thing called the internet. I know not what to make of it. I’m really not even sure how to approach this post or what exactly I’m discussing. The impetus for the post is the results of poll. But its more about the internet itself and society.
There are four actors in this drama.
The first actor is, get this, a dictionary publisher. Take us back 20 years ago and there probably aren’t many industries that are more staid or predictable. You’re the standard bearer for the industry and you’ve been in the business for 150 years. Every year a few new words are going to need to be added to the dictionary. Every year you’re probably gonna sell about the same number of dictionaries as you did before. Its not rocket science, its just dictionary publishing.
Or at least it was just dictionary publishing. In the digital age you can’t just be a regular old dictionary publisher and survive. Do you have a dictionary in the house? That’s less than 20 years old? Didn’t think so. You don’t need one. And while dictionary publishers probably are doing better than encyclopedia publishers and other old school printers, M-W’s online operations are clearly foundering as compared to a few years ago. By way of example, as I typed that last sentence I was unsure if the word was foundering or floundering. Googling foundering took me to The Free Dictionary, not M-w. (And no, I’m still not sure I used the right word. Apparently, foundering is worse than floundering? I wasn’t even sure they were both words.)
Our second actor is MSM. As usual it gets to play the role of a villian that’s as competent as Dr. Evil. Here is the very poorly written AP story about the results of the poll. Why poorly written? First, with a story like this, how can you not have a link back to the original poll? (In l33t: ttiuwp). Secondly, if you’re going to write an AP story that’s going to be syndicated throughout the web, you at least need to understand the subject matter. This sentence “For technophobes, the word also is familiar from the 1990 movie “Pretty Woman,” in which Julia Roberts startles her date’s upper-crust friends with a hearty “Woot, woot, woot!” at a polo match” is just plain inaccurate. (In l33t: fail).
Our third actor is a new media site, a site that has seen much wooting over the last few years. Specifically in this case its a Fark discussion thread of the AP article. In between internet vets spouting off about where they think the word came from you have some of the funniest comments you’ll see on the internet. Some of these comments are Fark-specific, some are universal, some are insightful, some are just plain funnier than anything that I have read or heard in a while. Most of them are things that the AP author of the woot story will never understand.
They’re all in the thread, but since its a long thread I’ll just give you my favorites:
1. Anti-Baconator bias.
2. The card says Moops
3. Hobosexual – Adjective. The opposite of metrosexual; one who cares little for one’s own appearance.
4. I don’t have many standards for what I consider a word, but “not having numbers” is one of them.
5. You have l337 as your personalized plates….in Nebraska…….on a Volvo?
If you understand, cool. If you don’t, just let it go. I beg you.
Our final actor is a blog. A blog related to a site about words. Essentially, it performs the job of our first two actors and does it better than either of them. It provides us with an in depth, if ultimately unsatisfactory, examination of the origins of the word.
What’s my Point?
I’m not sure. Some times all you can do is point things out and say, hmm, that’s interesting.