September 11th, 9-11, 9/11 – Words from our worst day

We still are not sure how to refer to that awful day — is it “nine eleven” or “September 11th?” As a society, we’re still vacillating.

In 2001, 9-11 (or equivalents) was the Word of the Year, according to the American Dialect Society. In 2002, it was Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). What do you think it was for 2003?  Metrosexual. What a change. Soon after that came words like Facebook, truthiness, and Google. The significance of the Words of the Year (see as commentary on our society is worthy of a classroom discussion.

But back to 9-11.  Here is a list of related words that have entered our vocabulary:

Al-Qaeda, burka, Taliban, weaponize, Ground Zero, terrorist, Jihad, Department of Homeland Security, Osama (bin Laden), first responders, embedded journalist, Islamist.

Some of these words existed before, such as terrorist, but took on a new meaning after the attacks. Some, like Osama, refer not only to a particular individual, but can be generalized to mean any evil person. Some words were created to describe situations that never existed before, like embedded journalist. Journalists have traveled with soldiers before, but not in this particular way.

Exercise: This list is certainly not complete.  What other words can your students contribute to this list? Are your students creating new words? Are they slang words (that is, words to obfuscate meaning so their parents won’t understand), or are they words which describe truly new phenomena, such as twitter?

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