Astronomists prevail in annual competition

Award season is upon us and the competition is stiffer than ever. I don’t know about you, but I thought the campaigning was a little over the top this year. Every day, something new in the–the solar system chocolate bar with the bite out of it; the “who dwarfed my planet” t-shirts; the stuffed Tweety on an ice floe–but I guess those PR mavens know their stuff.

The votes are in… the envelope please… “Plutoed” wins! The crowd goes wild! “Climate Canary” mumbles something about it being an honor just to be nominated, but everyone knows it’ll be face down drunk in the gutter soon after the awards banquet.

That’s right. “Plutoed” (which means to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the planet formerly known as Pluto when the evil genius astronomy overlords decided Pluto no longer met their definition of a planet and relegated the poor thing to dwarf status, thus rendering 100 years of science textbooks unusable, and giving the poor un-planet a short man’s complex to boot) narrowly defeated “Climate Canary” (an organism or species whose poor health or declining numbers hint at a larger environmental catastrophe on the horizon) in the American Dialect Society’s annual word of the year contest.

Some society members speculated that the unusually brutal campaigning had more to do with the old and new generations of the science vocabulary guild duking it out than any real competition between “Plutoed” and “Climate Canary,” whose advocates sent elaborate boxes of feather pens to voters in a last ditch effort to win approval. It’s stories like these that make me feel better and better about the hours I spend working on my scrapbooks.

It took a run-off vote for “Plutoed” to emerge victorious, whereas last year’s winner, “Truthiness“–coined by fake news pundit Stephen Colbert as “truth that comes from the gut, not books”–easily beat out contenders such as “Assmosis” (the process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement by kissing up to the boss rather than working hard) and “Blamestorming” (sitting around in a group, discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed, and who was responsible). “Truthiness” was also voted Merriam-Webster’s #1 Word of the Year for 2006 based on votes from visitors to their Web site, making it the “People’s Choice” award winner.

However, even with all of those accolades, “Truthiness” still hasn’t been invited onto the red carpet to be included in the dictionary itself. Apparently they don’t get Comedy Central as part of the basic cable package in the heartland.

“Polyamory” is in the dictionary now. That’s right, the “state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time” has become such common practice that Merriam-Webster added the term to the dictionary this year. In my dating days we called it “sleeping around.” It was “playing the field” when my mom was young, and “ensuring the spread of your seed” when the cavemen were strutting around the campfires of old. Nowadays, my husband calls it “Please?” and I call it, “Dream on, finish the dishes.”

“Supersize” (where you increase the size of your order by at least two pounds of potatoes) and “Gastric Bypass” (where they reduce the size of your stomach to make you lose all that supersizing), also made the dictionary this year, as did “Sandwich Generation,” which has nothing to do with food or obesity, unless you count the dried prunes and smashed peas two-fer in the shopping carts of baby boomers who can look forward to changing two sets of diapers till their twilight years.

If you’re worried the cost of diapers might keep you from joining the “WOOFs” (well off older folks), you can always supersize those Depends at Costco, the ultimate “Big-Box” (a word now found in your friendly neighborhood dictionary, available twice as thick at half the price on aisle three). Be aware that those Big-Box bargains might cause some “Unibrow”-raising (a single continuous brow resulting from the growing together of eyebrows) from your friendly neighborhood “Biodiesel”-driving (a fuel that is similar to diesel fuel and is derived from vegetable sources such as soybean oil) “Drama Queens” (people given to excessively emotional performances or reactions) now appearing in a dictionary near you.

In other word awards news, “YouTube,” (used as a verb, meaning to use the YouTube Web site where people submit their own videos) was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” by the American Dialect Society. Kind of Plutoes the whole award, don’t you think?

Originally appeared in theĀ Santa Barbara Daily Sound

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