Oxford English Dictionary's word of the year: 'hypermiling'
For the third year running, the Oxford English Dictionary has selected a green-themed term as its word of the year.
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I don't think Wayne hears me, because, as a Chevy Tahoe whizzes by, he notes, "I imagine that it's getting 10 to 13 miles per gallon climbing this hill. We're getting about 80. It'll drive you crazy." I'm thinking that hypermiling consists of driving like a 90-year-old in a mobile sweat lodge, but I'm about to find out I'm wrong. Really, really wrong.Skip to next paragraph
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"Buckle up tight, because this is the death turn," says Wayne. Death turn? We're moving at 50 mph. Wayne turns off the engine. He's bearing down on the exit, and as he turns the wheel sharply to the right, the tires squeal—which is what happens when you take a 25 mph turn going 50. Cathy, Terry's wife, who is sitting next to me in the backseat, grabs my leg. I grab the door handle. As we come out of the 270-degree turn, Cathy says, "I hope you have upholstery cleaner."
(An appeal to my readers: Please don't drive like this anywhere in the Boston area, where I live.)
Hard-core hypermilers often gather for fuel-efficiency contests, such as the Fuel Economy World Championships, held this year in Elkhart, Ind. Gerdes took first place, eking out 136 miles per gallon with his Prius.
Of course, the very fact that they all gather together just to drive in a big circle raises the question of whether hypermilers are really all that green to begin with. What about the fuel saved by those who don't bother to attend these events?
As I said earlier, the OED's choice makes for lexical hat-trick: Last year's pick was "locavore" – a term for a person who tries to conserve fuel by eating only foods grown locally. In 2006, the word of the year was "carbon neutral" (which looks to me like two words, but who am I to argue with the OED?).
As USNews's eco-blogger, Maura Judkis, notes, "hypermiling" had some stiff competition from other green words, such as "frugalista" (someone who saves money, but does so fashionably), "rewilding" (the process of returning an area to its original state), "carrotmob" (an organized attempt to support an ethical business by having everyone patronize it at the same time), and "staycation" (a vacation in which you don't go anywhere).