A panel of linguists has deemed “red state, blue state, purple state” the phrase that most colored the nation’s lexicon in 2004.
Attendees at the annual convention of the Linguistic Society of America on Friday chose the word or phrase that dominated national discourse over the course of the last year.
“It was the best candidate for word of the year,” said Dennis Preston, a professor of linguistics at Michigan State University. “It engaged the American public for the entire year. Nothing showed the bloodthirsty population-engaging election as this.”
The phrase “red state, blue state, purple state” represents the American political map. The term defines red as favoring Republicans, blue as favoring Democrats and purple showing swing or undecided states.
Other nominees for word of the year were: flip-flopper, a politician who changes political stances; meet-up, a local special interest meeting organized though a national Web site; mash-up, a blend of two songs or albums into a single cohesive musical work; and wardrobe malfunction, an unanticipated exposure of bodily parts. The term was coined when viewers saw singer Janet Jackson’s breast during the Super Bowl halftime show.
This was the 15th year of the contest, sponsored by the American Dialect Society.
An annual yin to the linguists’ yang, the banned words list from Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., contained three of the same phrases: red state-blue state, flip-flopper and wardrobe malfunction. The dialect society is less judgmental and more descriptive in its approach.
While the contest was considered very serious by the thousand or so conference attendees, there was plenty of joking to be found.
Preston made a pitch for the term “lawn mullet,” which describes a lawn that is neatly mowed in the front but unmowed in the back, as a candidate for the Most Creative category. “Hillbilly armor,” describing U.S. troops scavenging for material to protect their vehicles, and nerdvana, a term for collaborative geekiness, also were nominated in that category, but lost to pajamahadeen: bloggers who challenge and fact-check traditional media.