The alt.usage.english FAQ
English usage and 9/11
'9 - 11' Top Term for Darkest Day (Current usage/news)
There has always been a shorthand for American disaster: Three Mile Island. Oklahoma City. Pearl Harbor.
Now the nation appears to be settling on ''9-11'' -- pronounced ''nine-eleven,'' not ''nine-one-one'' -- for the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
''9-11 is easy to say,'' English professor Wayne Glowka says. ''It means the date, but it means a whole complex of things -- how we think, how we act, how we feel. There's a whole 9-11 attitude.''
Language experts say the term offers clues to how the country is coping with the disaster.
Placing a sort of slang on the destruction wrought by the hijackers is one way of putting the tragedy in perspective and moving on, says Geoffrey Nunberg, a Stanford University linguist.
''There's a need to package things, to label them, to get a handle on them,'' he says.
The disaster produced all sorts of options for historical reference -- ''the terrorist attacks,'' ''September 11th,'' even ''911,'' evoking the emergency phone number. But ''9-11'' appears to be sticking.
In a prime-time news conference just a month after the attacks, President Bush referred eight times to ''September 11th.'' But earlier this month, he said: ''Our economy was hurt by the attacks on 9-11.''
The American Dialect Society, which monitors changes in the English language, declared ''9-11'' its word of the year for 2001.
Labels for landmark events have a way of taking on a broader meaning, says Carolyn Adger, director of language in society at the Center for Applied Linguistics. So ''post-9-11'' can refer to the war on terrorism, the anthrax letters, even the surge of patriotism that followed the attacks.
Glowka says he has even heard people accused of being ''so Sept. 10.''
''Sept. 10 means someone who's disconnected, living in La-La Land, someone who is naive and is still being superficial, self-absorbed,'' he says. ''Sept. 11 has become such a signal date.''
(extract from the "New York Times" site, article by te Associated Press)
September 11 Slang (Current usage/news)
A mean teacher? He's "such a terrorist."
A student is disciplined? "It was total jihad."
Petty concerns? "That's so Sept. 10."
And out-of-style clothes? "Is that a burqa?"
It's just six months since Sept. 11, but that's enough time for the vocabulary of one of the country's most frightening days to become slang for teenagers of all backgrounds, comic relief in school hallways and hangouts.
"It's like, 'Your Mama, Osama,' as an insult," offered Morgan Hubbard, 17, a senior at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, where students have picked up on the phrase from an Internet game.
"If you're weird, people might call you 'Taliban' or ask if you have anthrax," said Najwa Awad, a Palestinian American student at J.E.B. Stuart High School in Falls Church. "Sept. 11 has been such a stressful thing that it's okay to joke a little bit. It's funny."
Language has always been as malleable and erratic as the day's headlines, and young people have always been some of the most innovative and playful in linking world events to their daily vernacular. But it's more than what it seems on the surface.
(extract from the Indymedia site, article by Emily Wax)
Words of 9/11 Go From Coffee Shops to the Dictionaries (Current usage/news)
Every catastrophe begets its own linguistic fallout - words and phrases forged by the awful novelty of the moment or catapulted from obscurity into everyday speech. Sept. 11 is no exception: its neologistic progeny have infiltrated the language of public discourse and private conversation. And now, in a few cases, they are headed into the dictionary.
When the American Dialect Society, a group of scholars who study American English, recently held its annual voting on the top new, or newly reconditioned, words of the previous year, 9/11 was voted the expression most likely to last. The nominees in various categories included weaponize, ground zero, theoterrorism, daisy cutter, facial profiling and debris surge, among quite a few others.
At Houghton Mifflin in Boston, the editors of the American Heritage College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, due out in April, recently went back in after their editorial deadline and added an entry for 9/11. (Alphabetized by the spelling of the first digit, it is to appear between nine days' wonder and ninepin.) They also added burka, Taliban, weaponize and hawala. Madrassah and Wahhabism were already in. "It's so funny," said Steve Kleinedler, a senior editor for the dictionary. "No one asks about chad anymore."
Words enter the language or leap to prominence when there is something new to describe; they stick around if there is some continuing reason to describe it. Many fade quickly, their longevity directly proportional to the longevity of the phenomena they name. Catchiness helps. But some new terms are too clever to last.
In the category of most inspirational, the society voted unanimously for the immortal words of Todd Beamer, used to rally passengers against the hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93: "Let's roll." President Bush has adopted the phrase, and a foundation set up in Mr. Beamer's name to help children of Sept. 11 victims is seeking trademark protection of the expression to try to ensure that any profits from its reuse benefit victims' families.
[ ... ]
At the Oxford English Dictionary, Jesse Sheidlower, the principal editor of the North American editorial unit, said weaponization and weaponized were already in the dictionary and they would add weaponize as a verb. "Burka is already in. Theoterrorism we currently don't have the evidence for. Ground zero is probably too specific, though it's a possibility. We have it in the nuclear sense."
(For those who need a refresher on the recent developments in vocabulary, hawala is an informal system of remittance used in much of the Arab world; a madrassah, also spelled madrasa, is an Islamic school; Wahhabism is a strict form of Islam.)
Mr. Sheidlower said he doubted that Sept. 11 and its aftermath would have much lasting effect on the language. Professor Glowka suggested that that remained to be seen. It would depend, he said, on how important it all seemed years from now.
Mr. Barnhart, meanwhile, was off stalking a newer new word. "Incidentally, I did discover some evidence of the term Enronese," he wrote in a letter last week. "It is very skimpy evidence at this point, however. What the appearance of this term reveals is that in the view of some observers, Enron's collapse has begun to generate enough unique vocabulary to warrant a cover term ending in -ese."
(extract from the "New York Times" site, article by Janny Scott)
The Words are the Same, but their Usage is Changing (Current usage/news)
The events of Sept. 11 changed everything, even the way Americans speak.
The terrorist attacks ushered in a new era. Politicians, journalists, pundits and generals have been busy debating and describing the happenings of the past three months with a whole new vocabulary of jargon, neologisms, euphemisms and foreign language terms that are becoming increasingly familiar.
Today many Americans know the difference between a burqa and a chador or cutaneous anthrax and inhaled anthrax. President George W. Bush refers to terrorists as ''evildoers,'' and the word ''hero'' frequently is associated with firefighters and police officers these days.
New words and phrases have been coined, such as 9-11, for the attacks, and collateral mail, for envelopes tainted with anthrax. Older terms including ''ground zero,'' from the end of World War II, have been given new meaning.
"Events like this show the incredible vitality of American English,'' says William Frawley, a professor of linguistics at the University of Delaware who sits on the advisory board for the New Oxford American Dictionary.
This new vocabulary is the result of a changing world. "Newthinking generally requires new speech,'' he explains.
Some words new to the common vocabulary already are taking on lives of their own. Anthrax is now used as a noun, verb and adjective.
Jim Tunis, owner of Switch Snowboards & Skateboards in Newark, Del., recently heard one of his young customers threatening to go ''totally anthrax.'' It's like "going postal'' or "going ballistic,'' he says.
American English is extremely democratic, compared with British English or French or Spanish. In the United States, anyone can create a new word, and foreign words - sushi, taco and tornado, for example - are easily assimilated, Frawley says. In France and Spain, an academy debates all new words before they are accepted officially into the language.
In America, people turn nouns into verbs and adjectives daily. For example, in October government officials and reporters wondered whether the anthrax sent to the U.S. Senate office building had been ''weaponized.''
This flexibility of vocabulary makes English teachers wince, but it shows this country's casual relationship with language, according to language experts.
In America, scriptwriters for ''Saturday Night Live'' and ''The Simpsons'' forge new expressions and influence the way we speak in the same way that sword-wearing intellectuals do at the Academie Francaise in Paris.
Words and expressions define every era and seemingly change with the television seasons. The second half of the 1990s - the Internet and dot-com era - introduced hundreds of computer and telecommunications terms into common parlance. Anything that a computer could do, a person could do, too. People multitasked at the gym by reading a magazine on the Stairmaster, or in the car by calling the billing department of the gas company during the morning commute.
New words - e-commerce, e-tickets and B2B - were created in the 1990s with the same fervor that venture capitalists had for any new enterprise associated with the Internet. Entrepreneurs and techies created e-everything, often before they created viable business models.
The decade ended with the IPO bubble bursting and the New Economy and the NASDAQ collapsing. Since the Exchange's nosedive began in March 2000, ''Nasdaq'' has come into use as a verb, meaning to drop quickly.
September's terrorist attacks pushed the language in a different direction. News reports, press conferences and talk shows now are peppered with Arabic terms (jihad and fatwa), Afghan geography (Kandahar in the south and Mazar-e-Sharif in the north) and military jargon (bunker buster bombs, flying Predator drones, and asymmetrical warfare).
Tension between the military, with its need to keep information secret while bolstering public support, and the press, with its hunger for new information, has brought back into daily use a list of euphemisms. Pentagon spokesmen speak of collateral damage, a phrase that came into common usage during the Persian Gulf War, referring to anything hit by weapons fire that was not the intended target, including innocent civilians. More specific is the older phrase "friendly fire,'' which refers to weapons fire that hits soldiers on the side that was doing the shooting.
Military and political language is filled with vague modifiers, such as a "credible'' threat of terrorism, or a "surgical'' strike, a military term that goes back at least to the 1980 attempt to rescue U.S. hostages in Tehran and is still in use today.
Anyone who has ever watched surgery, however, would not use the term "surgical" to replace "precise.'' "It's a bad metaphor,'' says Ken Smith, author of "Junk English'' (Blast Books, 2001). "It's getting to the point where words don't mean anything anymore,'' says Smith, whose book decries the merging of commercial hucksterism, technical jargon and sloppy everyday speech. "Everything is an ad slogan and it doesn't help us. It leaves us in a knowledge gap.''
Americans' knack for creating and using new terms is a reflection of this nation's commercial culture. "We're a nation of salespeople,'' Smith says. Packing sentences with rhetoric and jargon implies knowledge, power and prestige. ''That's the way we get ahead in America.''
But as quickly as Sept. 11 helped create new phrases, it also extinguished others. President Bush quickly learned that "crusade'' conjures up bad collective memories for many Muslims. He also learned that only Allah could deliver ''Infinite Justice,'' a fact which led the Pentagon to drop that name for its retaliatory mission, replacing it with the culturally inoffensive Operation Enduring Freedom.
(by Kent Steinriede, The Wilmington News Journal)
The Etymology of "Boink" (Etymology)
One of the airplane passengers killed in the World Trade Center attacks on 11 September 2001 was David Angell, the producer of the television show _Frasier_. Angell may have played a key role in history of the word 'boink'.
The history of 'boink' = 'have sex with', which later also came to have the meaning 'social gathering of Usenet newsgroup participants' (and which we've had some AUE discussions about in the past), seems to be tied closely to television, and indeed I'm not sure the word has ever really been used without there being some consciousness of an association with television (in this I think it is different from the
similar-sounding BrE word "bonk", which may well be the remote ancestor or at least kin of "boink"). In its entry for "boink" = "social gathering", the Jargon File mentions the shows _Soap_, _Cheers_ and _Moonlighting_ as claimed popularizers of the word; I myself associate it very closely with one or more episodes of _Moonlighting_ in
1985, in the show's first season I think. _Cheers_ (1982-1993) both predated and outlived _Moonlighting_ (1985-1989); _Soap_ was a much earlier show (1977-1981).
(extract from Richard Fontana's article on "boink")
Fightin' words (Current usage/news)
When America goes to war, it's never quiet on the language front. The public is exposed to a barrage of new terms.
War may be hell, but it's a heckuva time for wordsmiths.
While generals hurriedly prepare battle plans and spies get busy spying, linguists are quickly jotting down the waves of words washing into our vocabulary. From "daisy cutters" to "dirty bombs," from "Taliban" to "burqa," from "bioterrorism" to "homeland defense," Americans are awash in new words.
The reason, say linguists, is simple. When tragedy strikes -- or when the nation goes to war -- America gears up with fighting words. "Anything of grand scope contributes to vocabulary," says Wayne Glowka, an English professor at Georgia College & State University, and monitor of new words for the American Dialect Society. "Wars are of grand scope and they impress people. They bring soldiers to new places. They expose us to new places and new things."
(extract from article by Linda Shrieves, Sentinel Staff Writer; Orlando Sentinel; Dec 13, 2001)
The Orlando Sentinel
Sept. 11 gave birth to lots of new words (Current usage/news)
Time magazine has named its man of the year (ex-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani), the United States has its villain of the new century (Osama bin Laden) and now the American Dialect Society is getting ready to vote on its word or phrase of the year.
And while cuddle puddle (a pile of ecstasy users on the floor) is in the running, the smart money is backing phrases like "Ground Zero," "Let's Roll," "9/11," "Sept. 11," "Evil Doers," "Terrible Tuesday" and "Post-Sept 11" as likely winners when voting takes place on Friday in a San Francisco hotel at the language group's annual meeting.
While previous years have celebrated such phrases as "millennium bug," "Y2K," "e-commerce" and "chads" that were swinging, pregnant or just plain dimpled, the language mavens studying 2001 are as consumed with the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which killed more than 3,000 people, as everyone else.
According to the Dialect Society's Website, the chairman of its New Words committee, Wayne Glowka, has nominated more than 20 words and phrases, including some that appeared in print maybe once or twice like "Osamaniac" (a woman sexually attracted to Osama bin Laden) and "Apocalypse Sex" or "Armageddon Sex" (sex spurred by bonding after the collapse of the World Trade Center).
In the meantime, the folks at "yourDictionary.Com have already made their choice, saying no show of hands is necessary.
And the winner is: "Ground Zero" or as the Website puts it: "the now sanctified ground at the epicenter of the World Trade Center disaster."
""Sept. 11 has had a huge emotional impact on the entire society and that leads to 280 million Americans spreading the evolution of language," said yourDictionary.Com president and CEO Paul J.J. Payack in a telephone interview.
Besides "Ground Zero," the top 10 words on his list include President George Bush's middle initial "W" (Dubya) in second place with the advisory "The butt of January's political jokes waxes most presidential in September."
In third place is "Jihad," the Arabic word for "struggle" but which is used today as "Holy War." "God" is in fourth place with its variations of "Allah" and "Yahweh" with the note that in one form or another the "name has been in more headlines and on the lips of more politicians than any time in recent memory."
"Anthrax" is fifth on the list, followed by "Euro," Europe's new currency, and "Wizard" thanks to the Harry Potter craze.
In eighth place, the long-ignored suffix "stan" makes a comeback as in Pakistan, Afghanistan and thanks to a recent New Yorker cover, a mythical place called "New Yorkistan" which boasts such areas as "Irant and Irate," "Taxistan" and "Fuhgeddabuditstan."
In 9th place is a tribute to talk show host Oprah Winfrey "Oprahization," a term denoting whether something would play on her show or not. And in 10th place is "foot-and-mouth" referring to the disease.
Payack said his Website also ranks the colors of the year and not surprisingly in the groundswell of patriotic fervor that followed Sept. 11 the three top colors of 2001 are red, white and blue -- followed in fourth place by "Burkah blue" (no longer the rage in Kabul) and Olive Drab, the color of service fatigues.
"Our top colors last year were periwinkle, sage, salmon and things that were pearlized. Times have changed," said Payack.
(Arthur Spiegelman, Los Angeles Newsdesk, Reuters)
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