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'Barack' Befuddles, 'W00t' Woos Webster

Whether it's flubbing or dubbing, here's a quick look at two recent media year-end lists that might have escaped your notice.
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The website Regret the Error, which reports on media corrections, retractions, and apologies, is out with its list of the best—or is it worst?—news media mistakes of 2007. The unfortunate trend of the year, according to the site, is the tendency for media outlets to commit gaffes when writing about Illinois Senator Barack Obama. The Illinois Democrat may be a charismatic speaker and a serious presidential candidate, but he is also "a magnet for press errors," according to the site, which was founded by Montreal-based journalist and author Craig Silverman.

How so? Well, he was called "Osama" by the New York Post and not once but twice by CNN. The New York Times quoted a friend as saying Obama and his wife "fought long and hard" over whether he should run for president. That was a typo: The actual quote was they "thought" long and hard. Oops.

The problem seems to be an enduring one. The Hartford Courant misspelled his first name six times over the past three years, including twice in 2007.

The senator could complain about such errors, of course, but that might make him look petty. So he is effectively between Barack and a hard place.


The good-natured if self-appointed language police at The Global Language Monitor provide more evidence that "green" is indeed the new black. Based on the proprietary algorithm, "hybrid" is their word of the year, "climate change" the top phrase, and "Gore" the top name.

"The idea of planetary peril and impending climatic doom resonated throughout our linguistic analysis, with the various words and phrases garnering hundreds of millions of citations," said the group's president, Paul JJ Payack. "In the end this narrowly outdistanced the word 'surge' that also had a disproportionate impact upon 2007's linguistic landscape," or at least the Anglophone one that they monitor.

The model put "surge" as second and "bubble" as third. Still, one might question said algorithm for placing "smirting" (flirting while banished to the outdoors for a smoke) as No. 4 and "amigoization" (the increased Hispanic influence in the United States) as No. 9.

Their December 11th unveiling of the words chosen by that algorithm, the "Predictive Quantities Indicator," took a back seat to another organization's word list. The literati at Merriam-Webster on December 12th named "w00t" as their word of the year, basing the decision on an online tabulation of votes at their website. "W00t," by the way, is hacker-speak "expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word 'yay.'"

No environmental terms made the M-W top 10, although the potentially political (and pre-existing) words "conundrum," "quixotic," "apathetic," "hypocrite," and "charlatan" did.