Thursday, December 14, 2006

Word of the Year?

Geoffrey Nunberg’s latest Fresh Air Commentary, presented yesterday on NPR’s Fresh Air, examined the contenders for Word of the Year. He mentioned possibilities from “truthiness” to “netroots.” Nunberg then explained the case for why “macaca” ought to win the prize.

“It’s a strong field this year, what with contenders like Islamo-fascism, netroots, dwarf planet, buzzkill, and ‘the decider.’ Or if you were looking simply for the most bounce to the ounce, you might decide to go with macaca, an item whose first and only appearance in American public discourse could be credited with tipping the Senate to the Democrats. Given the razor-thin margin in the Virginia Senate race, it’s a fair bet that George Allen would have kept his seat if not for the flap when he used the word to refer to an Indian-American at a campaign rally and then tried to explain it away as a term he’d made up on the spot without knowing what it meant. If that was so, it was certainly a bit of freakish bad luck that led him to tumble on a word that happens to be a racial slur in the North African French spoken by his mother...”

Eventually, the linguist’s crisp essay looked more deeply than most commentators can manage into Michael Richard’s diatribe/meltdown in a comedy club -- with its uncomfortable aftermath of apologies -- and the key word used by Richards.

By the way, Nunberg is a professor at UC Berkeley’s School of Information and a researcher at the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University. Click here to read the entire Word of the Year essay.

1 comment:

Politicl.Animal said...

I tried, man, I tried:

One More Election Before Christmas!

But "truthiness" works too ... read my write-up here.