It is my absolute favorite time of the year on the OUPBlog. Word of the Year time (or WOTY as we call it in the office). Every year the New Oxford American Dictionary prepares for the holidays by making its biggest announcement of the year. The 2008 Word of the Year is (drum-roll please) hypermiling.
Do you keep the tires on your car properly inflated to maximize your gas mileage? Have you removed the roof rack from your vehicle to streamline the car and reduce drag? Do you turn your engine off rather than idle at long stoplights? If you said yes to any of these questions you just might be a “hypermiler.”
“Hypermiling” was coined in 2004 by Wayne Gerdes, who runs this web site. “Hypermiling” or “to hypermile” is to attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques. Rather than aiming for good mileage or even great mileage, hypermilers seek to push their gas tanks to the limit and achieve hypermileage, exceeding EPA ratings for miles per gallon.
Many of the methods followed by hypermilers are basic common sense—drive the speed limit, avoid hills and stop-and-go traffic, maintain proper tire pressure, don’t let your car idle, get rid of excess cargo—but others practiced by some devotees may seem slightly eccentric:
• driving without shoes (to increase the foot’s sensitivity on the pedals)
• parking so that you don’t have to back up to exit the space
• “ridge-riding” or driving with your tires lined up with the white line at the edge of the road to avoid driving through water-filled ruts in the road when it’s raining
The hypermiling movement has been criticized for its alleged promotion of driving tactics that are considered dangerous or illegal, such as overinflating tires, rolling through stop signs, and following closely behind large vehicles to cut down on wind resistance. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has issued statements condemning hypermiling as unsafe, while hypermilers have countered that AAA’s characterization of hypermiling is a misrepresentation (see links below for more info).
Hypermiling has also gotten some positive attention in 2008, gaining mainstream traction as gas prices soared and the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, especially those from foreign sources, has become more apparent. A new initiative launched by the Association of Automobile Manufacturers and supported by such notables as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger advocates the practice, referring to it as EcoDriving.
President-elect Barack Obama observed during his campaign that Americans could save as much oil as would be produced by proposed off-shore drilling if only they kept their tire pressures at recommended levels and took their cars in for regular tune-ups. Republicans’ subsequent criticisms of Obama’s statement put these measures advocated by hypermilers in the center of the debate between conservation and drilling as solutions to Americans’ foreign oil dependence problem.
A growing number of Americans favor hypermiling as a sensible set of practices for all drivers who are concerned about their wallets, the environment, and fuel independence, not just for those on the fringe who are obsessed with increasing their MPG numbers.
Word of the Year Finalists:
frugalista – person who leads a frugal lifestyle, but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying second-hand, growing own produce, etc.
moofer – a mobile out of office worker – ie. someone who works away from a fixed workplace, via Blackberry/laptop/wi-fi etc. (also verbal noun, moofing)
topless meeting – a meeting in which the participants are barred from using their laptops, Blackberries, cellphones, etc.
toxic debt – mainly sub-prime debts that are now proving so disastrous to banks. They were parceled up and sent around the global financial system like toxic waste, hence the allusion.
Word of the Year Shortlist:
CarrotMob, carrot mob – a flashmob type of gathering, in which people are invited via the Net to all support and reward a local small ethical business such as a shop or café by all patronizing it at the same time. Also as noun, carrotmobbing.
ecohacking (also known as geoengineering) – the use of science in very large-scale projects to change the environment for the better/stop global warming (e.g. by using mirrors in space to deflect sunlight away from Earth).
hockey mom – like a soccer mom, but one who is supportive of her ice-hockey playing kids, as popularized by Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin
link bait – content on a website that encourages [baits] a user to place links to it from other websites
luchador – a wrestler, an exponent of lucha libre [Mexican Spanish, lit. = ‘free wrestling’, a form of professional wrestling originating in Mexico and popular in Latin America, with spectacular moves, showy costumes, etc.]
rewilding – the process of returning an area to its original wild state/flora/fauna etc.
staycation – vacation taken at or near one’s home, taking day trips, etc.
tweet – a short message sent via the Twitter service, using a cellphone or other mobile device.
wardrobe – has become a verb, as in: Ms. Mendes has a long-standing relationship with the house of Calvin Klein and has been wardrobed by Calvin Klein Collection.