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Washington's global snow terms win recognition

After two recent snowstorms closed the federal government and schools across the region, people began digging out. The season's snow tally in D.C. reached 55.6 inches Wednesday -- more than the last record of 54.4 inches, set in 1898-99.

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By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010; 11:36 PM

Last winter's hardships, miseries and record snowfalls have brought a linguistic reward to Washingtonians who endured them and tried to describe them.

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The frequent and widespread use of the terms "Snowmageddon" and "Snowpocalypse," coinages that seemed to be on everybody's chapped lips, have won them a place in a list of the Top 10 words of 2010.

The announcement came this week from the Global Language Monitor, a consulting firm that monitors these matters.

The organization looks for words that represent trends of their times, and that suggest such significant events as the shutdown of the capital of the free world, said Paul J.J. Payack, who said he is the organization's chief word analyst.

Snowmageddon and its partner were inducted by the Institute into the world of new words back in February, Payack said.

What happened in Washington did not stay in Washington - not linguistically. The terms began appearing around the world, Payack said, meeting the institute's standards for recognition.

The institute, according to its Web site, "tracks the frequency of words and phrases in social media, on the Internet and blogosphere." It watches for them in the global print and electronic media and it accesses accessing proprietary databases.

And now, the two new words have been ranked No. 7 on the institute's top words of the year list. No. 1 was "spillcam," from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Now that Snowmaggedon is enshrined, will it be repeated? From the best available forecasts, the answer is probably not this winter. To summarize: snow - yes. Mageddon - unlikely.


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