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Dawn Teo

Dawn Teo

Posted: November 18, 2009 01:36 PM

Lexicographers at the New Oxford American Dictionary have selected teabagger as one of the runner-ups to unfriend for 2009 Word of the Year.

The definition of teabagging, according to Oxford, is "a person who protests President Obama's tax policies and stimulus package, often through local demonstrations known as "Tea Party" protests (in allusion to the Boston Tea Party of 1773)." Oxford Senior Lexicographer Christine Lindberg explains the exclusion of the other definition, stating, "It should be noted that the term "teabagger" appears on the Oxford list because of the usage cited on that list, not because of any other meaning."

Lindberg mostly sidestepped direct mention of the word's other definition in a manner befitting an individual closely associated with the esteemed Oxford institution. That is until she told Mediaite that "having deliberated carefully over the word-usage evidence, Oxford lexicographers are confident in their judgment that "teabagger" the political term stands distinctly apart from "teabagger" the vulgar term."

Keith Olbermann is not so sure. Known for monologues spiked with teabagging double entendres, Olberman commemorated the occasion on his show Tuesday:

Rare that an evolution and a word's etymology can be observed in real-time with such satisfaction. But it was Republicans who embraced the tea bag as their symbol with Tax Day protests to President Obama's agenda. And it was Republicans who cluelessly referred to teabagging as if it had no prior meaning. It was they who openly used the phrase that begged for double entendres. "Countdown" April 14th Teabag Eve. The Republican talking heads like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had pushed their own vision of teabagging down the throats of the original teabaggers who were in fact Libertarian supporters of Ron Paul. Cincinnati teabaggers down in the mouth about taxes got a Boehner endorsement from the House Minority Leader. And the nation's teabagging of course impossible without this man, a Dick Armey at the head of it.

Other finalists for Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year include hastag, netbook, sexting, zombie bank, birther, death panel, ecotown, and tramp stamp. Oxford Dictionary also included the following word cluster of "Obamaisms" in their press release:


Oxford Dictionary lexicographers select the finalists and winner "to reflect the ethos of the year and its lasting potential as a word of cultural significance and use." According to Oxford Acquisitions Editor Grace Labatt, words selected as finalists or winner of Word of the Year do not necessarily become part of the dictionary,

The words on our Word of the Year shortlist are under considered for inclusion in the next dictionary—they are on our “words to watch” list. Depending on frequency of usage, which we assess with the Oxford English Corpus (a two-billion-word collection of texts), we will determine whether they should be added to the next edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary, to publish in Fall 2010.

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