Published January 06, 2003
ATLANTA – A long-winded phrase whose meaning reflects a nation's worry about war with Iraq has been voted 2002's word of the year.
The American Dialect Society selected "weapons of mass destruction" as its annual choice at a meeting in Atlanta.
"The term goes back 50 years, but you can't turn on the radio or television without hearing about 'weapons of mass destruction,'" said Wayne Glowka, an English professor at Georgia College & State University who is also chairman of the society's new words committee.
The society made its selection Friday.
Most of the words nominated by members of the society reflected the looming threat of war with Iraq or the suffering economy, Glowka said.
"All these words — Iraqnaphobia, regime change, weapons of mass destruction — they all have to do with worry about war with Iraq. So it hasn't been a very good year," he said. "Not as bad as last year, but certainly not an 'up' year."
Last year's word was "9-11" — pronounced "nine-eleven," not "nine-one-one" — for the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The American Dialect Society, founded in 1889, has been choosing words of the year since 1990.
"There is no scientific method of determining which words or phrases will be named words-of-the-year," said Allan Metcalf, executive secretary of the group. "It's kind of like Time magazine determining the whistle-blowers were the person-of-the-year. There is no objective way of determining it. It's all done with a show of hands."
The phrase "regime change" was voted most euphemistic, not so much for its connotations to Iraq, but because people started using it to describe other changes of leadership.
"Like when a team fires a coach, they call it 'regime change,'" Glowka said.
There was only one nomination for 2002's most inspirational word: "embetterment," coined by President Bush. But even though it was the only candidate in that category, it was voted down because "people didn't want to encourage it," Glowka said.
Other words won superlatives from the American Dialect Society:
_ Wombanization, a synonym for feminization, won most unnecessary because it's hard to pronounce.
_ Neuticles, a brand name for fake testicles for neutered pets, was named the most outrageous word.
_ Blog, a log of personal events posted on the Web, was voted most likely to succeed.
_ Iraqnaphobia, meaning a strong fear of war with Iraq, won most creative.