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Do You Overshare Your Selective Ignorance?


This is a special time of year for the editors of Webster's New World dictionary. Not because of the year-end holidays, but because it's the time when they choose candidates for word of the year. Or rather, what they call the emerging English word, one that first popped into widespread use this very calendar year. They narrow the choice to five words, not yet in the dictionary, that reflect what the lexicographers call changing realities in our complex and busy society.

Then the public chooses the winner, their favorite word or short phrase of the year.

Here were the 2008 finalists:

Leisure sickness. This is a malady, not yet recognized by psychiatry, in which compulsive workers, called workaholics, report that they feel better when they're hard at work than when they are relaxing on weekends or vacation.

Overshare. This is the phenomenon of sharing more information about yourself, say in a Web log or online social network, than you intended to.

Cyberchondriac. [pron: cy-ber-KON-dree-ack] This word describes a hypochondriac, or one who images illnesses that don't exist, who picked up this phobia by reading about diseases on the Web.

Selective ignorance. This is the practice of deliberately ignoring information, say in Internet e-mails.

And finally, youthanasia. This is not mercy killing. This word is spelled differently. It is the practice of prolonging the appearance of youth through procedures such as wrinkle removal.

Notice that the Internet played a large role in the creation of several of these words.

And the winner of Webster's New World dictionary's word of the year: overshare, which, you'll remember, involves revealing too much about yourself online. Why people feel compelled to overshare is a whole other story.

Read more of Ted's personal reflections and stories from the road on his blog, Ted Landphair's America.