The year of climate porn and fanta pants

Erik Jensen January 8, 2009


LAST year began in excess and ended in disaster, if the words it contributed to the Macquarie Dictionary are any indication. The past year was one of flashpacking and toxic debt, of wellness tourism and the GFC. Those, alongside 91 other words and phrases, were added in 2008 to the Macquarie Dictionary's online edition.

"It says there was incredible smugness and consumption and then something hit it in the vitals and that made it sound silly and selfindulgent," the poet and Macquarie committee member, Les Murray, said of the list. 

"There were two big things that happened in 2008. One you can't use because it's a proper noun, and that's Obama. The second was subprime."

The editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, Susan Butler, said the influence of America was again large on the list of words she selected. But the British fanta pants "from the orange-coloured soft drink … with reference to pubic hair as the indicator of hair colour" was a notable exception.

The big trend for the year was the growth of environmental language: of ecocentrism, referring to the philosophy in which the ecosphere is more important than an organism or human  activity; of plastic soup, referring to a mass of plastic on an ocean gyre; and of climate porn, referring to alarmist predictions about the progress of global warming.

"There's 19 categories rather than 17 because environment had to be split into two," Ms Butler said. "And then it is in politics as well." 

Looking through the list of words, Mr Murray said lifestreaming (the online recording of one's daily life) sounded better than what it meant.

Uberveillance (omnipresent electronic  surveillance through devices embedded in the body) had more future than present.

And water footprint (the amount of fresh water used by a country, business or individual) was his pick for beauty. 

Readers of the Macquarie are encouraged to vote online for their favourite word, from which a people's choice will be announced in February.

The pick from 2007 was password fatigue, referring to the feeling encountered when a vast number of passwords renders a user unable to remember any of them.

This story was found at:

Erik Jensen, January 8, 2009, "The year of climate porn and fanta pants", Sydney Morning Herald