Misty Harris (no relation) of the Tubby Postmedia News cobbled together a hodgepodge of entries from other people’s words-of-the-year lists. It was passed off under the hed “Lexicographers pick the strangest words of 2010,” though of course it is editors who select headlines and that hed was altered in syndicated variants of the article.

I didn’t expect any press coverage from my Canadian Word of the Year project. I didn’t expect to be ignored, either. But I definitely did not expect that a Canadian newspaper chain would gin up this unholy hybrid from the feedstock of the work of legitimate lexicographers, none of them Canadian.

If you’re going to write an article about words of the year, why not write an original article? Worse, why are all the entries “chosen by Postmedia News” American in origin or at least not Canadian?

Going from no coverage of words of 2010 to this coverage prompted me to change my mind and get upset that my original and Canadian work was ignored. Seriously: This was what the papers went with?

These words aren’t actually Canadian

Why are we including ugly and obsolete American terms in a newspaper article about words of the year?

The entries Postmedia News chooses as its favourites are either old and cross-national (guru [OED: 1967, in reference to McLuhan], hacktivist [1995]) or explicitly American (GTL). I’m going to focus in on that disposable nonce word as an indicator of everything that’s wrong with the piece, but I’m going to bring some Ginos along for the ride.

  • I mailed Harris and called these choices derivative and colonial; all Harris would state is “GTL is from an American TV show, yes, but the show was also a huge pop-cult phenom in Canada.” If your paper’s former owners ran a TV network that buys its programming in bulk from Hollywood, I gather this would indeed be the derivative, colonial base from which your imagination springs. (I didn’t actually ask Harris about her imagination.)

  • Is Harris one of those people who thinks there really isn’t any such thing as Canadian English? (Skill-testing question: What’s the last letter of the alphabet?)

    How else would she not have known that the Americanism Guido and its hideous distaff abomination Guidette were long ago eclipsed by two established Canadianisms, Gino and (note well) Gina?

    Both of those, unlike Guidette, are actual Italian names, which explains why they work so well as mildly derogatory references to Italian-Canadians. There’s no reason why we can’t export these words to other English-speaking countries. There’s also no reason to import inferior American variants, unless of course you’re so American in outlook and temperament, and so ignorant of your own language, that you never even noticed what was already in use in your own country.

  • Neither Guido (OED: 1985) and Guidette dates from 2010 or became unusually popular this year.

  • If The Smurfs is sexist because every smurf is a smurf except the only girl smurfs, unsubtly named Smurfette and Sassette, then isn’t it sexist to assume stereotypical Italian-Americans are guys unless you tag on a feminizing suffix?

With the popular press, I don’t expect something as detailed and scholarly as a paper delivered at the American Dialect Society convention. What I also don’t expect is something cobbled together from other sources that ignores the actual language of writer and reader.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2010.12.29 13:48. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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