Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year

As you know, it’s that time of year, when stories come out about best films, pictures, news stories, etc. of the year.

I haven’t had a chance to post this, but a couple of weeks ago, I came across this article about Merriam-Webster declaring its “Word of the Year” :

Expect cheers among hardcore online game enthusiasts when they learn Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year. Or, more accurately, expect them to “w00t.”

“W00t,” a hybrid of letters and numbers used by gamers as an exclamation of happiness or triumph, topped all other terms in the Springfield-based dictionary publisher’s online poll for the word that best sums up 2007.

Merriam-Webster’s president, John Morse, said “w00t” was an ideal choice because it blends whimsy and new technology.

“It shows a really interesting thing that’s going on in language. It’s a term that’s arrived only because we’re now communicating electronically with each other,” Morse said.

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.

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.

Purists of “l33t speak” often substitute a “7” for the final “t,” expressing a “w007” of victory — an “in your face” of sorts — when they defeat an online gaming opponent.

“W00t” was among 20 nominees in a list of the most-searched words in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary and most frequently submitted terms from users of its “open dictionary.”

The choice did not make Allan Metcalf, executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, say “w00t.”

“It’s amusing, but it’s limited to a small community and unlikely to spread and unlikely to last,” said Metcalf, an English professor at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill.

Okay, wait a minute. These guys are kidding, right? I’ve been using this word since 2006 – nay, earlier than that – and sparingly, I might add. Where was Merriam-Webster LAST year?

I think this is why I prefer Oxford dictionaries.

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