Monday, August 3, 2009

The Word of 2009

My vote for the top word of 2009 is sustainable.

It's everywhere. For example, here's a recent USAToday story about college students flocking to sustainability degrees. Green -- not greed -- is good, or so says the story. And we talk a lot about finding a sustainable model for journalism as its traditional economic model of advertising and circulation unravels. There's even a Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University. I look forward to seeing what they come up with, once it truly gets rolling.

A Google News search for "sustainable" 40,979 hits, though to be fair, a lot of them have nothing to do with the recent use of the word. But a lot are tied to "green" in some way. By the way, search Google and you get 61.2 million hits, the first two from -- yes -- wikipedia. So "sustainable" is, I would think, growing in the public mind. It'd be interesting to know how people in a survey respond to the word. Do they think "green" when they hear it? Do they think anything at all? Is the word loaded with positive or negative connotations?

My hunch? People will associate it with "green" and that association will result in the usual, tired, ideological breakdowns. Conservatives will shudder at the word (I do too sometimes, it's not a pretty word). Liberals and greenies in particular will smile, get a warm fuzzy, then go buy something organic. At some point "sustainable" will get ideolized -- a bad word as well, one that I made up on the fly to suggest it's become too politicized to have meaning.

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