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Carbon Neutral: Oxford Word of the Year

Christmas lights are starting to go up, turkey recipes are being emailed around, and for most offices that means its time to order the holiday cards. At Oxford though, all these things signal a much more important moment, the announcement of THE WORD OF THE YEAR!

The New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2006 is (drum roll please) Carbon Neutral.

Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset: paying to plant new trees or investing in “green” technologies such as solar and wind power.

The rise of carbon neutral reflects the growing importance of the green movement in the United States. In a CBS News/New York Times Poll in May 2006, 66% of respondents agreed that global warming is a problem that’s causing a serious impact now. 2006 also saw the launch of a new (and naturally, carbon neutral) magazine about eco-living, Plenty; the actor Leonardo DiCaprio is planning a environmentally-themed reality TV series about an eco-village; and colleges from Maine to Wisconsin are pledging to be carbon neutral within five years. It’s more than a trend, it’s a movement.

Erin McKean, editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary 2e, said “The increasing use of the word carbon neutral reflects not just the greening of our culture, but the greening of our language. When you see first graders trying to make their classrooms carbon neutral, you know the word has become mainstream.”

“All the Oxford lexicographers look forward to choosing the Word of the Year. We know that people love fun, flashy words like truthiness or the latest Bushism, but we are always looking for a word that is both reflective of the events and concerns of the past year and also forward-looking: a word that we think will only become more used and more useful as time goes on.”

If making the world a better place isn’t enough of a reason for you to become carbon neutral, consider doing it because the cool kids are. Al Gore, Rupert Murdoch, and the Rolling Stones are all advocates of being carbon neutral.

Runners-up for the 2006 Word of the Year include:

CSA (community-supported agriculture: a system of food distribution where individual consumers purchase a season’s worth of regularly delivered allotments of the vegetables, fruit, dairy, or other agricultural products grown on a small, usually family-owned farm or orchard.)

DRM (digital rights management: hardware or software that controls access and use of digital data, access and uses that may be disapproved of by rights owners, but that are not necessarily illegal.)

dwarf planet (a new designation for planetlike objects [such as Pluto] that are round and orbit the sun, but have not cleared other objects from their orbits. The word pluton was also proposed as a term for planetlike objects beyond Neptune, with Pluto as their prototype.)

elbow bump (a greeting in which two people touch elbows, recommended by the World Health Organization as an alternative to the handshake in order to reduce the spread of germs.)

fishapod (a humorous name for a newly discovered fossil [Tiktaalik roseae] that has features of both fish and land mammals and as such is considered an evolutionary link between the two.)

funner (an informal/nonstandard comparative of fun.)

ghostriding (the practice of exiting a moving vehicle and dancing either beside it, or on the hood or roof, while the vehicle is in motion.)

Islamofascism (a controversial term equating some modern Islamic movements with the European fascist movements of the early twentieth century.)

pregaming (the practice of consuming alcoholic beverages before attending a sporting event or party, especially one where alcohol may be limited or banned.)


Want to know what your carbon footprint is? Check this link out. Disagree with the word of the year? Email us and tell us what you thought it should be.

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27 Responses to “Carbon Neutral: Oxford Word of the Year”
  1. Oxford University’s word of the year

    Oxford University e-mails that it has chosen its word (or rather, phrase) of the year: “Carbon neutral.” As in: As long as he flies across the planet bloviating about global warming, Al Gore will fail at efforts to live a…

  2. Gawker says:

    Twatwaffle Slighted Again in Shocking Word of the Year Upset

    According to the lexicographers (that’s Latin for “enormous nerds”) who compile the New Oxford American Dictionary, this year’s word of…

  3. TakeFive says:

    I think they missed a great one coined by Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit): Pre-mortem

    http://www.instapundit.com/archives/033235.php

  4. Pamela Benjamin says:

    Carbon Neutral? Oh, Oxford, you are blindingly intellectual! …And I love your books.

  5. Mark says:

    How did the ever-present “diversity” not make the list?

  6. Dear Al Gore,

    Congratulations! We hear you’ve just joined won the prestigious Word of the Year award from the Oxford English Dictionary, for your linguistic creation, “Carbon Neutral” (which is actually two words–did you know that?). When we first heard this concep…

  7. Oxford University Press has announced their word of the year for 2006

    http://blog.oup.com/oupblog/2006/11/what_do_al_gore.html

  8. lach says:

    carbon neutral is 2 words

  9. Word of the year: Carbon neutral (!)

    The Oxford University Press has chosen “carbon neutral” as its word(s) of the year. To win this honor, carbon neutral had to beat out a long list of worthies, including elbow bump (what the World Health Organization is advocating…

  10. Kamasutra Jones says:

    Islamofascism would have been a much better – and more important and daring – choice. I guess ye olde liberals at Oxford just could not recognize the threat we all face. Did Chamberlain come back from the dead to chose the word?

  11. Anonymous says:

    �Carbon Neutral� is The Oxford American Dictionary�s Word of the Year

    �The increasing use of the word carbon neutral reflects not just the greening of our culture, but the greening of our language. When you see first graders trying to make their classrooms carbon neutral, you know the word has become mainstream.�

  12. Words

    I came across a story yesterday that caught my eye. It mentioned that the “Word of the Year” for the The New Oxford American Dictionary is Carbon Neutral. Pretty blassy if you ask me and didn’t excite me very much. I went to the story about it and agai

  13. Ru Hartwell says:

    Carbon neutral is an aspiration. A worthy one but often misused and seldom achieved in the real world.
    Another new word- Treeflight. An ordinary flight that has had a tree planted to make it carbon neutral (after 100 years).

  14. Carbon Neutral: Word of Year

    Green goes mainstream as carbon-neutral made word-of-the-year. Now that the word is mainstream, we need to achieve the goal. … … Erin McKean, editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary 2e, said: The increasing use of the word…

  15. Great choice! Here’s a few more. You can become “Carbon Neutral” by “Offsetting” your own “Carbon Footprint” by “retiring” “CO2 Equivalent Emission Reduction Credits” through the Clean Air Conservancy. Now buy a Ton or 2 of CO2!

    The Clean Air Conservancy

  16. Mel says:

    Wow! CARBON and NEUTRAL go together like Peanut butter and Jelly.

  17. Anni deMerle says:

    While carbon neutrality is a good goal, it does not go far enough. We need both a goal and a term that are stronger. If we are carbon positive now, then carbon negative may be a goal, but a lousey term! And, if we don’t figure it out, there won’t be any need for terms like diversity or islamlofascism or those funner elbow bumps, although pre-mortem certainly works in this context.

  18. Are Carbon Offsets More Than Hot Air?

    by: Joel Makower A new report that rates providers of retail carbon offsets is out today, and even the anticipation of its publication has caused a flurry of anxiety among some of the 30 companies it reviewed….

  19. carbon neutral is OUP 2006 phrase of the year

    The New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2006 is (drum roll please) Carbon Neutral. Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining…

  20. The New ECO-Buzz Word of 2007 is ‘iceality’
    Google Search the word: “ICEAlity” to describe the phenomena of culture integrating with social issues.
    ICEAlity is the Aesthetics of the relationship between Humans and their Environment through the Arts, ultimately promoting an effective sustainable global culture of Peace.

    (consider ICEAlity being the enhanced outdoor version of Feng Shui: The Chinese art of interior design whereby the positioning objects will have a positive or negative impact on inhabitants).
    ICEAlity and the Environmental Art Movement was recently recognized by the Cleveland City Council as the indigenous art form of the greater Cleveland, Ohio area.

    -For further Info:

    http://community.myfoxcleveland.com/blogs/enviroarts
    http://blog.myspace.com/jakupca

  21. Alex Simmons says:

    Becoming carbon neutral is no longer sufficient in todays modern world, you need to go be we go beyond neutral to carbon negative.

  22. jessi says:

    Whats the phrase of “Carbon Nuetral”?

  23. mustapha khalifeh says:

    never 2 late 2 make our environment green 4 our genration but is it possible

  24. Brent says:

    Carbon Neutral is quite a good phrase to use rather than green, zero emission, or pro-environment. We need to realize that we need to recognize the presence and importance of the human race and its endeavors. Being carbon neutral is being more responsible that we give back to nature what we take from her. We are supposed to be in a balance always. Plants take in carbon dioxide and so we take in oxygen. Carbon neural means to go on life and human development responsibly that we do not destroy nature to the extent of killing it. For we know that when that “give and take” cycle is broken we sahll also suffer from it.

  25. The Cajon says:

    I’m all about being responsible and I think we have a lot of work to do……..and “Carbon Neutral” is two words:)

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