“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Closing the WOTY Season Because Words

The WOTY Season ends today, January 4, 2014, and I’m simply exhausted because WORDS. The language blog Wordnik.com outlined a roundup of all the WOTY activity yesterday, but it only scratched the surface. The McMillan Dictionary blog offered its take on the activity in December.

Yes, the Word of the Year winner is “because” because The American Dialectic Society, which has the Last Word on WOTY. Late yesterday the rarefied group announced its winner. Ben Zimmer, chair of the ADS New Words Committee and language columnist for the Wall Street Journal, said in a press release:

“This past year, the very old word because exploded with new grammatical possibilities in informal online use,” Zimmer said. “No longer does because have to be followed by of or a full clause. Now one often sees tersely worded rationales like ‘because science’ or ‘because reasons.’ You might not go to a party ‘because tired.’ As one supporter put it, because should be Word of the Year ‘because useful!’”

“Because” beat out contenders like “slash,” “twerk,” “Obamacare,” and “selfie” because votes. Not to worry, however. The Oxford Dictionaries named “Selfie” its word of the year because numbers:

Language research conducted by Oxford Dictionaries editors reveals that the frequency of the word selfie in the English language has increased by 17,000% since this time last year.

Nevertheless, the ADS pick carries the most weight because age and influence. The society, organized 125 years ago by linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, editors, students, and independent scholars, announced their first pick, “bushlips,” in 1990 and soon became the Mother of All (the society’s 1991 pick) WOTY competitors. In addition to the overall WOTY, the society has other categories: Most Useful, Most Creative, Most Unnecessary, Most Outrageous, and others.

The various WOTYs are kind of fun and kind of revealing. Everyone’s nominated words probably say something about the society that uses them (not that I can figure out what they say about us). For those reasons, I think they all missed the real WOTY for this year and for this newest generation – Generation Z, a lazy and horrible sobriquet, in my opinion.

Is the Word, Is the Word, Is the Word
 To understand why my pick has groove and has meaning, we have to time travel back to 1974, when not only did a word sweep the country and define a generation, it became an entire musical that reruns and reruns and reruns year after year. It had groove, it had meaning. Remember this?

Could you make a whole musical out of “Because”? Or “Selfie”? Not.

You COULD make a whole musical out of my pick for WOTY. And rename Generation Z, a really awful choice as the last letter of the alphabet, to reflect the pick.

It’s Flash Mob. Why? Watch this:
More than 1.6 million viewers have watched this Flash Mob video of the U.S. Air Force Band in the Air and Space Museum on the Smithsonian Mall just before Christmas.

This Generation Z (ugh) embraces those kids born from 2000 to the present, and it’s shaping up to be quite a group.

According to Dr. Jill Novak of University of Phoenix and Texas A&M University, we have in the U.S. six living generations:  “As a generalization each generation has different likes, dislikes, and attributes. They have had collective experiences as they aged and therefore have similar ideals. A person's birth date may not always be indicative of their generational characteristics, but as a common group they have similarities.”

According to Novak, this most recent generation is going to be huge and is currently made up of two sub-groups, the Tweens and the toddler/elementary school-agers. This group, says Novak, is not merely tech-savy; they will have never known a world without cell phones, computers, laptops, pads, and all the high-tech gizmos. She says:

  • With the advent of computers and web based learning, children leave behind toys at younger and younger age. It's called KGOY-kids growing older younger, and many companies have suffered because of it, most recognizable is Mattel, the maker of Barbie dolls. In the 1990's the average age of a child in their target market was 10 years old, and in 2000 it dropped to 3 years old. As children reach the age of four and five, old enough to play on the computer, they become less interested in toys and begin to desire electronics such as cell phones and video games.
  • They are Savvy consumers and they know what they want and how to get it and they are over saturated with brands.
The Flash Mob is an invention, and a creative one, of their generation. My prediction is that this newest Generation will make Flash Mob performances their own. The first ones occurred on the streets of Manhattan in 2003, and the term Flash Mob, according to Wikipedia, entered the 11th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary on July 8, 2004, which defined Flash Mob as an “unusual and pointless act” separating it from other forms of smart mobs such as types of performance, protests, and other gatherings.

I take issue with “pointless,” but history can be that judge.

One Flash Mob videoed in 2009 has become “historic.” It was the first one I watched and it has captured 14 million viewers:

This November 2010, Food Court Christmas Flash Mob, captured 43 million views:

This April 2011, Union 6-7 Grade, Mrs. Clark, 2nd Period Flash Mob is an especially creative one and shows the limitless possibilities of the genre. It lists 16,000 views: On YouTube search for Power Words Flash Mob.

I hope I’m in the right place at the right time to see something like this November 2011, Denver Airport, creation: 

Pointless? I don’t think so.

My granddaughters are two drops in Generation Flash Mob, and two creative examples embody the spirit of the Flash Mob and my wish for the lives of this newest Generation: First the USAF Band Christmas performance (seen above).

And this one videoed in Summer 2012 in front of the Banc du Sabadell, Germany. Notice all the little drops of this new Generation, especially the little girl who initially puts coins into the hat and never moves from her spot, and the one who climbs the lamppost to hear Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. This Flash Mob performance has thrilled and uplifted 3.5 million viewers worldwide: 

Now I'll be watching for the Flash Mob musical.


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