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2006 in a word

Posted by Jan Freeman, keep until April  November 13, 2006 11:14 PM

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The Word of the Year is carbon neutral, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, which announced its 2006 pick today.

Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions (your carbon footprint), reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset -- paying to plant new trees or investing in "green" technologies.

Not that NOAD gets the last word -- or the first word, or the only word. The Word of the Year parade started in early October, when the Oxford English Dictionary chose bovvered, from a catchphrase on Catherine Tate's BBC comedy show. ("Am I bovvered?" means "Am I bothered? Do I look like I care?" See it in action here.)

Next, on Nov. 1, Webster's New World chose Crackberry -- a play on the addictive properties of the BlackBerry PDA -- as its 2006 WOTY. (But the WNW word squad, like NOAD's, was thinking globally; one of its runners-up was carbon footprint. Will it be a green year in the WOTY world?)

These are just for starters; dozens of WOTYs will be proposed in coming weeks, and the season won't end till the American Dialect Society votes on its list in January. We'll be back for more.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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