Here’s the (Corrupt, War Mongering, Lying) Zeitgeist: Word of the Year

Merriam-Webster’s #1 Word of the Year

1. truthiness (noun)

1 : “truth that comes from the gut, not books” (Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” October 2005)
2 : “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true”
(American Dialect Society, January 2006)

2. google
3. decider
4. war
5. insurgent
6. terrorism
7. vendetta
8. sectarian
9. quagmire
10. corruption
It’s not a pretty list, when you think about it, except maybe that we had google (proper noun or verb ) to thank for our ability to swim around in all the information about corruption, lying, and war that has dominated the zeitgeist this year. On the other hand, they were the company that included this (#6) in their Corporate Philosophy: “You can make money without being evil.”

That did not seem to stop them when they helped the Chinese government crack down on free speech. So maybe they fit in a way none of us really wants to think about too much. It makes you wish for an earlier, less “truthy” time. Perhaps, for example, 1909 when “Tiddly-om-pom-pom” was the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year. If you know what that means, let me know.

The following review of other contemporary lists, taken from the Chicago Tribune, isn’t much more hopeful:

Grant Barrett, author of “The Official Dictionary of Unofficial English” … has his nominations ready. They include:

Data Valdez: “An accidental release of a large quantity of private or privileged information,” such as what happened this year to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and UCLA (“Valdez” refers to the notorious Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989).

Marble ceiling: Government’s version of the “glass ceiling,” or gender discrimination, which California Rep. Nancy Pelosi broke this year by becoming speaker of the House.

7,000-mile screwdriver: Micromanagement of a situation from afar, lately used to talk about running the war in Iraq.

Wayne Glowka, who writes the “Among the New Words” column in the journal American Speech, has these terms on his list:

Cut and jog: Cut and run at a slower pace.

Spew: Gibberish in e-mail spam intended to fool a spam filter.

Sock puppet: An assumed identity on the Internet.

By Nathan Bierma
Special to the Tribune
Published December 27, 2006

I wonder why sock monkey didn’t make it?


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 I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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