Crackberry Is the 2006 Word of the Year

HOBOKEN, N.J., Nov. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- When it comes to technology, we're all thumbs -- feeding an addiction to PDA's and cellphones, and generating Word-of-the-Year buzz at Webster's New World(R) College Dictionary.

Crackberry, winner of the 2006 Word-of-the-Year contest among the dictionary's staff, sums up the ubiquitous thumbing of keypads on handheld devices throughout the country. And it does double duty, denoting both the device and the user. Whether on BlackBerries -- the PDA's that spawned this latest appellation -- or cellphones, or other handheld devices, people hunched over these tools are a common sight. That devout looking hunch itself, note Webster's New World editors, is called the Crackberry prayer, homage to this latest obsession.

Devotion to digital communications is nothing new to lexicographers tracking new terminology. Mouse potato, geek chic, and Thumb Generation are all terms now solidly entrenched in the dictionary's massive database, if not yet in the dictionary itself. They speak to the mesmerizing attraction of instant contact and information.  Crackberry had quite a number of competitors for Word-of-the-Year status at Webster's New World this year, and the obvious choice, Pluto, was, of course, high on the list. No longer defined as a planet, Pluto and its demotion to dwarf planet may require a number of dictionary entry changes in the coming year.

Choosing the Word of the Year is a pleasant exercise that the editors and language researchers (called citation readers) of Webster's New World look forward to each year. "We survey the new, emerging language of the past year," says Editor in Chief Michael Agnes, "and choose one word (or phrase) that captures our imagination -- whether with its intrinsic linguistic attributes or by the way it expresses how language reflects changing realities."

Among the other competitors for Word of the Year in 2006 were:

netroots - a grassroots movement on the Internet that is employed in political and business marketing;

neuroeconomics - an emerging field studying the emotions activated in financial decisions; and

carbon footprint - the effect one's daily activities -- like washing clothes or driving to work -- have on the environment.

"In most cases," says Agnes, "the word chosen is a new one and thus hasn't yet found its way into the dictionary. As we do not try to predict the future of language change in English, the choice does not reflect an opinion that the term will eventually be found in the dictionary. In short, it's merely one that made us chuckle, think, reflect, or just shake our heads. In any case, it is a product of our language monitoring program, by which we collect examples of emerging new English -- to the tune of 2,000 new examples per month. Our citation files now hold approximately 1.9 million such examples." Through more than five decades of language research, Webster's New World lexicographers have created a uniquely modern dictionary that helps you understand and use the language as no other dictionary can. With the most readable, precise, and up-to-date definitions, the dictionary also has reference sections that provide a wealth of information not found in any other college-level dictionary. Included are a full-color atlas of the world, rules of punctuation, geographical tables, and scientific and measurement charts. The rich history of our language is traced with the identification of Americanisms and with detailed etymologies, and the dictionary also boasts higher-quality paper that enhances readability and durability.

Selected by the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and other leading newspapers as their official dictionary of choice, Webster's New World College Dictionary represents the finest linguistic scholarship. For more information on the lexicographical process behind the dictionary, Editor in Chief Mike Agnes is available for interviews.

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