Broadcast on COAST TO COAST: January 15, 2004
AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster -- winning words for 2003 as voted by a small group of linguists and other scholarly observers of the language.
RS: More than seventy members of the American Dialect Society voted in Boston on the words that -- and we quote here -- "most colored the nation's lexicon, or otherwise dominated the national discourse." The chairman of the new words committee, Wayne Glowka, says the word which most signifies 2003 is ... metrosexual.
GLOWKA: "Metrosexual is not exactly a new word. I believe it's been around since about 1996. There was some discussion about what it actually meant. But I think we're safe in saying it's a heterosexual male who is fashion conscious. He may look fastidiously homosexual to someone else, but he's heterosexual."
RS: "So use it in a sentence for us."
GLOWKA: "Oh, I don't know, 'that man with the nice nails certainly looks metrosexual.'"
AA: "Is it considered -- "
GLOWKA: "I have actually never heard it in use. Someone sent me the word as a nomination several months and I went looking for it on Lexis-Nexus and found there was a book that talked about 'the metrosexuals' and there were articles about metrosexuals -- actually, just focused on what the word meant. But nothing sort of where you could see people naturally using it and you could hear it in the context where it's normally used. It's kind of a strange term to me, I guess."
RS: "And it's on the top of a list of many other terms that you considered, phrases or words that you considered for 2003. And many of these words, they're predominantly war-related or health-related."
AA: "It beat out 'pre-emptive self-defense.'"
GLOWKA: "Yeah, actually, what happened was there was an initial list of 'pre-emptive self-defense,' 'embed,' 'zhuzh' or however you say it, 'governator,' 'weapons of mass deception' and 'weapons of whatever.' And there was a first vote, and it looked like there was going to be a runoff between pre-emptive self-defense and metrosexual. And then a man from China stood up and he was kind of offended that 'SARS' -- which had already won Most Likely to Succeed -- was a much more important word than metrosexual. So there was another vote and, then a final vote with a runoff between metrosexual and SARS."
AA: "And it looks like metrosexual received 35 votes and SARS received 31 votes in the final round."
GLOWKA: "By that time some people had quit voting."
RS: "[Laughter] Very unscientific."
GLOWKA: "Absolutely! But very democratic."
AA: "And one thing, we should explain 'governator,' just in case someone out there who has been living under a rock doesn't know what that -- "
GLOWKA: "Doesn't have a t-shirt yet with 'governator' on it. Well that refers to, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger who was, what, the Terminator in several movies and now is the governor of California. So we have a blend here, along with 'gropenator' and 'gropenfuhrer.'"
AA: "Which come from the accusations that ... "
GLOWKA: "That he was a groper."
AA: "Now turning to the Most Useful category here, tell us about the winner."
GLOWKA: "Well, the winner is 'flexitarian.' This is a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat. So on Thanksgiving a flexitarian may eat some turkey, but basically is a vegetarian otherwise."
RS: "You have many categories here -- Most Creative, Most Unnecessary, Most Euphemistic -- what do these words, in total, tell us about who we are as Americans, what our society has been like over the last year?"
GLOWKA: "Well, even though this may look like a bad time to some people, the language is still a place where a sense of humor and novelty goes on. And sometimes the novelty ends up being kind of ugly or frightening, but sometimes it's kind of funny. In fact, I really love doing this and I really love editing this column for American Speech called 'Among the New Words' because I get to look at new words and many of them are just funny. I mean, governator to me is hilarious."
AA: Wayne Glowka is an English professor at Georgia College and State University. And he edits a column in American Speech, the journal of the American Dialect Society.
RS: You can find all the nominees and winners at the American Dialect Society Web site, americandialect.org. We'll post a link at voanews.com/wordmaster.
AA: And don't forget our e-mail address. It's firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, a quick word about "zhuzh," one of the losers for the Word of 2003. We learned that it's a verb spelled Z-H-U-Z-H or T-J-U-Z-S. It refers to the way fashion-conscious people primp their clothes to look just right. With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.