w00t! Wait a second… the Merriam-Webster word of the year is w00t?
Expect cheers among hardcore online game enthusiasts when they learn Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year. Or, more accurately, expect them to ”w00t.”
”W00t,” a hybrid of letters and numbers used by gamers as an exclamation of happiness or triumph, topped all other terms in the Springfield-based dictionary publisher’s online poll for the word that best sums up 2007.
Right. OK, so I play a lot of online games–and have since the early 90s, which is when I remember first seeing people type “w00t!” after something good happened in the game. And I realize this whole “word of the year” thing is not much more a press-release opportunity anyway, based on an online poll; last year’s word was Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.” I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a whole bunch of gamers mobilized to vote for “w00t.” But as frivolous as it is, the news coverage kind of makes me cringe. It’s halfway to suggesting that “w00t” should actually be in the dictionary, which would make me bury my face in my hands.
I mean… I really love the fact that languages are living, evolving entities that change over time. I even wrote papers on diachronic linguistics and online language patterns when I was in school, and I’m one of those rare people who doesn’t think “ebonics” is a ridiculous or morally bankrupt idea at all. I’ve never been part of the William Safire school of thought that we ought to turn up our nose at incorrect usage and raise an eyebrow in a genteel manner at new words that might not stick around.
Still, though… w00t? Come on. I’ve said it myself any number of times, but it’s not even that great of a slang term. I suppose I wouldn’t have put pfft in the dictionary either, and apparently that’s in there. (Well… I would have defined it as “2. An interjection used to express disdain or dismissal.”) Maybe I’m just getting all twitchy at the thought of l33t speak words, all mixed up numbers and letters and punctuation, finding their way into the dictionary? Maybe I’m just remembering all the annoying gamer dudes yelling that while greedily scooping up their latest helm or gauntlets or gigantic sword or whatever. And maybe I’m just getting old and boring!
I did find this very amusing post on the origins of w00t–the comments are especially entertaining. (If you are a huge nerd.) For the record, I’m definitely with the people arguing that the current usage originated in hacker culture, spread via UNIX and early text-based online games (of which there are few if any written records), and then maybe gained wider currency and broader meanings after “Whoot! There It Is” became a popular refrain.
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