November 24, 2003

blog wins 2003 ADS "word most likely to succeed" award

Margaret Marks at Transblawg points out a site where Swiss people can vote for "Wort des Jahres (word of the year) and Unwort des Jahres (antiword of the year)". The site archive has results back to 1977 (for Germany), when #2 (of six Wort des Jahres winners) was "Terrorismus, Terrorist". Starting in 2002, the program appears to have spread to Austria and Lichtenstein, and now to Switzerland. Dr. Marks explains Lichtenstein's intriguingly petty #3 winner for 2002, Senfverbot "mustard ban". Mark Twain would have appreciated the 1999 Deutschland tenth-place winner Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungs-aufgabenübertragungsgesetz.

The American Dialect Society has a "Words of the Year" contest. Unfortunately it seems only to go back to 1990, so we can't compare lexicographic terrorism awareness across the Atlantic in 1977.

But like the Academy Awards, the ADS contest has categories, of which the most interesting to me is "most likely to succeed". Winners in this category since 1990 have been notebook PC, rollerblade, snail mail, quotative "like", [not awarded?], world wide web, drive-by, DVD, e- , dot-com, muggle, 9-11, 9-11 [winner two years in a row?!], and [in 2003] blog. Take that, John Dvorak!

The ADS vote was tallied back in January, so it is not exactly a news flash, but I missed it at the time :-). A search for "American Dialect Society word of the year" at produces only an error page telling me that the search result "does not appear to have any style information associated with it." Indeed, alas...

[Update 12/1/2003: Grant Barrett, the webmaster for the American Dialect Society, has brought to my attention the fact that I misread their webpage: 9-11 won just once, in the January 2002 vote for "word most likely to succeed" from the year 2001. The list given above become correct, I think, if the second occurrence of 9-11 is deleted.]

Posted by Mark Liberman at November 24, 2003 06:35 AM