Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merriam-Webster word of the year 2007 (and fine print)

is ... drum rolls ... W00t! and yes I did not type Woot (I purposely used zeros instead of the letter o)

W00t (interjection):expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word "yay"

If I understand this correctly, the 2007 word of the year is a synonym for "yay". I cannot help but find this disturbingly amusing. Oh but wait, it gets better, here are some choice snippets from the web site.

Thousands of you took part in the search for Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year for 2007, and the vast majority of you chose a small word that packs a pretty big punch. The word you've selected hasn't found its way into a regular Merriam-Webster dictionary yet—

the exclamation is also known to be an acronym for "we owned the other team"—again stemming from the gaming community.

Merriam-Webster's #1 Word of the Year for 2007 based on votes from visitors to our Web site:

So, if I understand these findings. The 2007 word for the year is not found in the regular English dictionary and it is an acronym for "owning the other team" (talk about explaining theory A using an even more obscure theory B) and oh the result is based on votes from visitors to our website.

I do understand what W00t! means, I have used the word, the website and am quite aware of it. I have nothing against W00t. What I find troubling here is that a word with its primary relevance emanating from an extremely niche population (online gamers/gamers) has been chosen as the word of the year.

I find this similar to this imho classic post by Josh Kopelman who blogged about the techcrunch effect. The gist of the post is that, the 60+K (now maybe 100+K) users of techcrunch drink each others kool-aid in mass amounts and are freaked out by findings that the biggest priority of most Internet users is not switching from Word to Google Docs (gasp!).

I am sure there is a gamer somewhere who is thrilled to bits that W00t is the word of the year and cannot comprehend the fact that 95+% (i am guessing here) of the world's English speaking population has not heard of it.

IMO, the deeper problem here is that as the Internet makes communication quicker, easier and louder we are mistakenly associating the frequency of appearance of a thought/concept on the Internet as indicative of its prevalence or popularity. It is not and I am afraid some of the mistakes may be more costly than just a unknown word of the year.

But for now, hope you had a great 2007 and a big W00t! for 2008 ;-)

The top 10 words of 2007 can be found here

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