Log in ....Tribune

Dot.ComLatest in ITFree DownloadsOn hardware

Monday, January 7, 2002

Osamaniac!— What’s that?
Arthur Spiegelman

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 colours of the year and not surprisingly in the groundswell of patriotic fervor that followed Sept. 11 the three top colours of 2001 are red, white and blue -- followed in fourth place by "Burkah blue" (no longer the rage in Kabul) and Olive Drab, the colour of service fatigues.

"Our top colours last year were periwinkle, sage, salmon and things that were pearlised. Times have changed," said Payack.



Freed Russian software programmer returns home

A Russian software programmer, freed in November after escaping prosecution under controversial US copyright laws, returned home last week and praised the support he received from campaigners while in detention.

Dmitry Sklyarov, 27, told NTV television after arriving at a Moscow airport his release had defied the long odds of trying to defeat the US authorities in legal proceedings.

"Someone once said that no single person can win a legal case against the US government, that you can only lose, that the state will wear down your nerves and it will cost you lots of money," Sklyarov said.

Sklyarov, shown in a van with his wife and two small children raising plastic glasses in a toast, has denied all wrong-doing in a case seen by his supporters as a fight for free speech rights in cyberspace.

He was the first person to be charged with violating the new Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) for selling and conspiring to sell technology designed to circumvent copyright protections in a computer program. His arrest followed a presentation in Las Vegas last July about software he had developed allowing computer users to copy and print digital books. Demonstrators gathered in US cities with placards demanding his release. Sklyarov was freed as part of a "diversion agreement" under which he admitted facts but no illegal activity.

His company, Moscow-based ElcomSoft Co. Ltd. still faces charges and could be fined $2.25 million if convicted.

Sklyarov has agreed to advise his whereabouts each month and to appear for legal hearings if required.