Unfriend a Teabagger

The New Oxford American dictionary has a knack for making astute choices for their word of the year, perhaps because, at some level, they are outsiders. This year they’ve picked “unfriend” as their top pick; their list includes several other technology words. I am not sure about ‘hashtag’ (I don’t tweet) but I think ‘sexting’ and ‘zombie bank’ are wonderfully evocative of our current zeitgeist.

I think the list of Obama words (Obamanoics, etc.) is banal; this started with Reagan and it no longer signifies. The list of political words is telling (including ‘zombie bank’) and more telling still is the wacky right-wing comments debate. Even here, in the most conservative and traditional of institutions, they found a liberal bias. Their beef lies in the choice of “teabagger” and “birther.”

What’s fascinating is that these writers have almost no sense of qualitative (much less quantitative) research. If these words are picked, the commenters imply, it has to be politics, and if they are picking only words that refer to the right wing, then it must be evidence of bias. The lexicographers must be ignoring left wing slang, perhaps because they would find it embarrassing.

These commenters are not embarrassed about their prejudices. “So much for scholarship,” Keith Smith, says, “Teabagger” is a slang sexual term perpetuated by openly gay correspondent Anderson Cooper of CNN.” Of course, as another writer noted, this term was first widely used by Fox News and other right wing writers, apparently unaware of the sexual connotation. That’s what was so funny.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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