“World Trade Center” Flickr photo by Ralph Hockens
As another anniversary of 9/11 comes and goes, and wars relating to those events rage on, I thought it would be interesting to look back at how the events of 2001 changed the words we use.
Nine-eleven is the slang we use to put this tragedy in perspective. Geoffrey Nunberg, a Stanford University linguist, says, “There’s a need to package things, to label them, to get a handle on them.” The American Dialect Society made 9/11 its word of the year in 2001.
Some other words that were in the running that year were: cuddle puddle (a pile of ecstasy users on the floor), Ground Zero (where the attacks in New York City happened), Let’s Roll (the phrase allegedly used by Todd Beamer to rally against the hijackers on United Airlines Flight 93), Evil Doers (former President George W. Bush’s phrase for those who perpetuated the attacks) and Post September 11 (to mean the way the world had changed after the attacks).
According to Arthur Spiegelman of the Los Angeles Newsdesk at Reuters, YourDictionary.com came up with a list of the top 10 words for 2001. They were:
- Ground Zero – the now sanctified ground at the epicenter of the World Trade Center disaster
- Former President George Bush’s middle initial “W” – pronounced Dubya and often used in a derogatory way
- Jihad – the Arabic word for “struggle” but which is used today as “Holy War”
- God, Allah or Yahweh – listed with the note that the name had been in more headlines and on the lips of more politicians than any time in recent memory
- Anthrax – the dangerous spores carrying infectious disease sent to politicians in an envelope and said to be “weaponized”
- Euro – Europe’s new currency at the time
- Wizard – this was added because of J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter craze
- The suffix -stan – as in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in a parody cover by the New Yorker of New Yorkistan showing areas labeled Irant and Irate, Taxistan and Fuhgeddabuditstan
- Oprahization – the tendency of public and private citizens to discuss their personal problems or feelings in public forums, especially talk shows like Oprah’s long-running television show
- Foot-and-mouth – referring to the disease (and not what Dubya often found himself doing)
It was a terrible day and I remember it well. I wanted to take a moment to think about the way it changed our lives and our language.
Flickr photo from Internet Archive Book Images
Anamnesis, according to Dictionary.com, is “recollection or reminiscence” but also refers to a Platonic idea of remembering things the soul knows from a previous existence.
In medical terminology, anamnesis refers to taking a patient’s medical history. It’s also a term used in immunology that means the way the body responds more quickly to a antigen.
I like the idea that we might remember things from our previous existence as Carl Sagan’s “star stuff” as if we were the universe made manifest in order to figure itself out.
Perhaps our wildest stories come by a process of fictional anamnesis, our Wildest Word of the Day.
Here is Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Richard Feynman and, yes, Bill Nye, remixed and auto-tuned, for those of you who haven’t stumbled across the awesomeness that is Melodysheep and the Symphony of Science series. This piece is called We Are All Connected. Let me know what you think in the comments section.
Photo by Michael Kearns
According to The Phrontistery (The Thinking Place) and their list of unusual words, lambert is a unit of brightness and light.
It was also the maiden name of my maternal grandmother (pictured above) who died recently after breaking her tailbone and having a heart attack as a result. She was 90 years old. Her oldest daughter, my mother, died at 42. My grandmother never quite recovered from losing her daughter so young and so the past 25 years have been hard on her.
I would like to celebrate the laughter and light I remember as a child visiting my grandmother by sharing this word of the day.
Writing Quote created by Paul Jenny using Flickr photo by Jeff Kubina
I live close to our longest-serving First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s modest house, Vall-Kill. She said of her beloved cottage, “Vall-Kill is where I used to find myself and grow.”
During all this growth, I wonder how often she was humiliated by telling the truth?
According to Wikipedia.com Eleanor Roosevelt held over 348 press conferences during her husband’s twelve-year presidency. She also published a monthly column in Woman’s Home Companion and once wrote such a strongly worded editorial in a newspaper that her husband, Franklin, had to publish a reply.
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project states that she left volumes of writing and never used a ghost writer. According to the site, she wrote 27 books, more than 8,000 columns and 555 articles. She also gave more than 75 speeches a year.
When was the last time you told a truth in fiction that you couldn’t tell IRL? Leave me a comment and let me know.
Watch Frank Sinatra speaking to Eleanor Roosevelt on YouTube.com
Flickr photo by Jeff Kubina (CC License)
Flickr photo by Jayel Aheram
Also known as “Brain Freeze” (a term first used in published form in 1991), sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is the scientific term meaning nerve pain of the sphenopalatine ganglion.
According to Wikipedia, this is considered a misnomer because the pain is actually thought to be caused by the trigeminal nerves. The rapid cooling of the blood vessels in the sinuses causes the trigeminal nerves to react and send signals to the brain indicating that the pain is coming from the forehead, which in turn causes “ice cream headache” or brain freeze. This same mechanism is thought to cause the “auras” associated with migraines.
I occasionally get migraines with aura, but it’s been awhile since I’ve had a good brain freeze. I’ll have to head over to the local 7-Eleven and suck down a Slurpee on the next hot July day and see what happens. I can’t wait to see the look on the clerk’s face when I grab my forehead in pain and yell, “Help, I’m having an attack of sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia!”
Let me know in the comments about your favorite brain freeze incident. I’m sure there are some pretty wild stories out there.