Dictionaries are as competitive as any cross-town sports rivalry. I suspect there are fewer incidents of stealing mascots, but the urge to kick your opponent’s ass from one goalpost to the other is eternal. The Word of the Year is a nasty, ego driven business. It’s ruthless. Not quite a bloodsport -- less cockfighting, fewer carcasses -- but intense none the less. Anyway, Part One is here and Part Two is there. Now, Part three -- Webster’s New World® College Dictionary Word of the Year for 2009 is actually a phrase, but somehow the word gods allowed its selection.
Drum roll please!
The Word of the Year is: Distracted Driving.
So to get into the word-groove of Webster’s New World’s 2009 pick, I’m writing this in traffic as I drive. Drove right by one motorcycle cop already, he never saw my magic thumbs in action. Oh oh!... close call, almost side-swiped the 181 bus on Hollywood Blvd ... OK, now I’m at a red light ... anyway -- I’m blogging this on my Blackberry driving to Amoeba for yet another day in the Lair of the 45’s ... left down Vine Ave, I see the chess playing guy is back in front of the Montalban Theater ... right on Sunset, maybe, one of these days ... some people take their sweet ass time crossing the street. Wow, one of LA’s finest just gave me a dirty look but kept on going ... now I’m pulling into the parking garage ... Damnit! Dropped the phone under my seat for a second, its not easy making that sharp right turn ... anyway ... word of the year ... actually just a minute, just remembered -- CrackBerry, a mocking term for 'addictive' BlackBerry use was Webster's Word of the Year back in 2006 ... anyway, almost finished here ... looking for parkin ... Oops! not good ...
Distracted Driving is defined as another consequence of what many are guilty of, using digital devices on the go and not paying attention to what they need to be paying attention too, like driving and where they are going and whether or not other people driving might be heading for that same exact, finite location simultaneously. The term is said to be entering the lexicon of lawyers and barristers around the world. Webster calls distracted driving a "sign of the times" and a natural corollary of our ongoing love affair with all things digital and mobile, slick and shiny. The New Oxford American Dictionary also had a word for a similar condition -- intexticated: “distraction caused by texting on a cellphone while driving a vehicle.” Webster likes to point out that distracted driving is actually a crime in many places around the world, but here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., I believe it’s only a national state of mind.
Runners-ups for 2009 Word of the Year at Webster’s New World were:
cloud computing: Computer operations in which documents and data are created, edited, and stored remotely on servers and accessed by the user via an Internet connection (this term is so well established that it will likely be added to the annual update of the College Dictionary in 2010).
wallet biopsy: Applies mostly to health care and the means of investigating before medical service is provided, of a patient’s ability to pay, enabling the health care provider to decide whether free or discounted medical care is appropriate; a term fueled in part by the debate on national health care reform.
By the way, the 2008 Webster’s New World Word of the Year was -- overshare (verb), “divulging excessive personal information, as in a blog or broadcast interview, prompting reactions ranging from alarmed discomfort to approval.”