Word of the Year: Carbon Neutral


OK, I know that’s really two words. The folks at the New Oxford American Dictionary (think of them as the OED‘s much hipper cousins) have declared “carbon neutral” their word of the year. The definition, please:

Being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, 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 such as solar and wind power.

While this term has been on the lips of the likes of Al Gore for a while, it hardly has the currency of last year’s winner, “podcasting.” Which makes this a significant choice. As NOAD editor Erin McKean explains:

“All the Oxford lexicographers look forward to choosing the Word of the Year. We know that people love fun, flashy words like truthiness or the latest Bushism, but we are always looking for a word that is both reflective of the events and concerns of the past year and also forward-looking: a word that we think will only become more used and more useful as time goes on.”

“Carbon neutral” beat out another socially responsible contender, “CSA” (community sponsored agriculture), as well as “Islamofascism.” And my favorite, “elbow bump”.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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