Tuesday, January 8, 2008


The American Dialect Society (yes, there is such a thing) voted "Subprime" as 2007's Word of the Year last week.

If you are a homeowner, you probably know why.

"Subprime" is an adjective used to describe a risky or less than ideal loan, mortgage, or investment. The housing crisis in the country raised the new word's profile last year.

The choice makes sense.

What doesn't, however, is "lolcat," a term I'm still trying to come to grips with. It was made infamous by Time Magazine, that bastion of hard news.

But what does "lolcat" mean?

A combination of "LOL" (laugh out loud) and, well, "cat," it refers to an odd or funny picture of a cat with a humorous and intentionally ungrammatical caption in large block letters. The pervasive cats are all over the Web with their grammatically incorrect musings. The dialect makes text messaging look like Shakespeare.

Exhibit A:

funny pictures
This image was taken from http://icanhascheezburger.com/, which has hundreds of awfully spelled messages from very cute cats.
It's ridiculously funny and worrisome. And it's spreading.


Not only are there tons of sites dedicated to this disease, there's even a lolcat translator and the LOLCat Bible Translation Project, because, apparently, you can never offend Christians enough.

You can google it, but you'll have to live with the consequences.

Other words for 2007 were:

Green-: (prefix/compounding form) - Designates environmental concern, as in "greenwashing."
Surge: An increase in troops in a war zone.
Waterboarding an interrogation technique in which the subject is immobilized and doused with water to simulate drowning.
Googlegänger: A person with your name who shows up when you google yourself.

The full release can be found on the American Dialect Society's Web site (PDF).
Tangent: David K. Barnhardt of Hyde Park, by the way, is a member of the society.