Word of the Year: w00t

They say the English language is a living thing, and if that’s the case, the word “w00t,” spelled with both letters and numbers, could either be seen as a fantastic evolution of the language, or a harpoon through the chest (for those English purists). It would seem that visitors to Merriam-Webster.com take the former view, since they’ve voted the expression Word of the Year in a recent online contest.

W00t, which has its origins as an expression of joy among gamers, beat out 19 other words, including “facebook” and “Pecksniffian” for the title. The list was created from the top 20 searched and added terms in the company’s Open Dictionary.

Mock it if you will, but Merriam-Webster president John Morse sees real meaning in l33tspeak. “People look for self-evident numeral-letter substitutions: 0 for O; 3 for E; 7 for T; and 4 for A,” he said in an interview with Reuters. “This is simply a different and more efficient way of representing the alphabetical character.”

We’re not sure what’s more efficient about pressing one key instead of another key and confusing your parents, but we’ll take your word for it, Mr. Morse.

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