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.)