Well, look what we started!

Last August, the members of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) made headlines by voting to downgrade Pluto from planetary status to "dwarf planet."Although they may not have realized it at the time, that decision would have ramifications well outside the field of celestial science. How so? Inadvertently, the IAU also introduced a new term into the lexicon that has just been deemed the "word of the year" for 2006 by the American Dialect Society. At its annual meeting, a majority of the society chose "plutoed" in a runoffagainst "climate canary." As the linguists, grammarians, historians, and other scholars understand it, "plutoed" means "demoted or devalued." (The runner-up is – gasp – defined as "an organism or species whose poor health or declining numbers hint at a larger environmental catastrophe on the horizon.") Said society president Cleveland Evans: "Our members believe the great emotional reaction of the public to the demotion of Pluto shows the importance of Pluto as a name.... we still have a sense of personal connection with the former planet." The 117-year-old society goes through this exercise for fun, and makes no claim to exclusivity. Which is just as well because dictionary publisher Merriam-Webster also picks a word of the year, and its choice for 2006 was "truthiness."

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