Ever have a "WoWover"? If you're between 15 and 25, I'll bet you have.
A WoWover is the lousy feeling you have in the morning after playing 16 continuous hours of Worlds of Warcraft.
Needless to say, this new word is an amalgam of the abbreviation for the game, WoW, with "hangover," a word well-known to most of the rest of us.
There is a wonderful aptness of the conjunction of these two words -- after all, an addiction is an addiction, and you only have to look at some kid coming down off a daylong, online game jag to instantly recognize in the bloodshot eyes and hang-dog expression the look of someone paying heavily for a bender.
The more extreme WoWovers have taken on the trappings of urban myth: The group of college students who troop down to the dining hall in their bathrobes to buy cereal and coffee, only to head back to their dorm rooms for yet another day of gaming … and who eventually flunk out. Or the Japanese kid who plays so long his head literally explodes with a cerebral hemorrhage. This is "Lost Weekend" for Gen X and Y.
But until now this phenomenon had no real name.
Finding a Name
Now thanks to a competition held last week at the 2007 Media X annual meeting at Stanford University, it does. Media X, an institute at Stanford that studies the latest in interactive communications and other emerging technologies, once a year brings together its researchers and grad students, along with corporate clients like Cisco, SAP and Time Warner, to talk about the Next Big Thing. I've gotten to know Media X through its executive director Chuck House, with whom I used to work at Hewlett-Packard.
House is one of those Silicon Valley veterans who grows more radical and adventurous as he gets older. And Media X is a long ways from staid old HP -- it doesn't get much more cutting edge than a computer research institute at Stanford. The typical academic papers presented there -- "Blocking and the System of Grammar" and "Isosurface Stuffing: Fast Tetrahedral Meshes with Good Dihedral Angle" are two recent examples -- that illustrate how far-out this research can be.
But the annual meeting, because it includes industry representatives as well, is a little more practical and a lot more fun. And one of the high points is the Media Lexicography Challenge held at the end of the two-day event.
Participants are asked to come up with a new word that memorably captures some phenomenon of modern life. And, this being the age of digital mash-ups, it's probably not surprising that most of these neologisms are verbal mash-ups of pairs of words already in common usage.
WoWover was this year's champion, and winner Andrew Donovo only added to his luster by donating his $250 prize as a benefit to Media X's students.
Some Runners Up
To my mind, however, some of the runner-ups were just as good. They included:
Shocklog (noun) -- A weblog (blog) that is filled with "controversial, critical, surprising and/or appalling content," according to creator Steve Cisler. Needless to say, this is the standard terminology of shock jock transported over to the blogosphere. My hunch, though, is that this is more likely to survive as "shockblog," only because it is smoother to say.
Connectile Dysfunction (noun) -- A hilarious creation by Baldwin Cheng. You know where it comes from, and it means a "sudden loss of Internet connectivity, resulting in disappointment and anxiety." Clever, but will anybody actually use it to describe themselves?
Humongatoid (noun) -- A fact of transcendental importance. I assume deviser Neal Burns mashed "humongous" with "factoid" -- but wouldn't a giant factoid just be a fact?
Mobleman (noun) -- One of those tiresome jerks with a sense of supreme entitlement who talks loud enough in his cell phone at airport lounges so that lesser mortals are forced to listen. Creator Keith Devlin mashed "mobile" and "nobleman" together for this one … but I suspect most of us have already come up with a more accurate seven-letter term for those guys.
Storydwelling (noun) -- There's something profound in this new word created by "cumulus guy." He defines it as "a form of narrative where the participant lives the story of the experience, as contrasted with (mere) storytelling." This new word, which is not particularly tech-based, I think has a real chance of sticking.
The winners in this competition will now join other neologisms based at the site of another of the founders, Addictionary.org, a company based in Park City, Utah.
Addictionary is dedicated to helping the English language grow by collecting new words and helping their creators showcase them to the world. Addictionary describes itself as being staffed by "snowflakes" -- gearheads who move to out-of-the-way places like Park City, Utah -- and is a regular contributor to NPR's "Says You!"
If you want to stay on top of the zeitgeist, you could do a lot worse than regularly stopping in at Addictionary. The new words are entertaining enough -- my favorite new one is "wiitard," for the idiot who can't even hold on to (i.e. throwing it through the TV screen), much less operate, the new Nintendo Wii game console remote control. But if you look beyond the cleverness, you can also spot great social movements hurtling back and forth just beneath the surface of our culture, occasionally colliding and tossing up not only new words, but new ways of looking at the world.
So, until next week, may all of your workmates be "coolleagues," your office be spared a "ditzkreig," none of your customers be "lusers," and may the "grumpelstiltskin" in the next cubicle leave you in peace.
Tad's Tab: The latest from the teen tech trenches, by Malone's 15-year-old son, Tad Malone:
Ever stop in your tracks from seeing something fascinating written on a city wall? Writtenonthecity.com has a collection from different places around the world. Some are completely silly (in San Francisco one says 'Eat More Pork') while others are brilliant. Nevertheless they will stop you, and make you think.
This work is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Michael S. Malone, once called the Boswell of Silicon Valley, is one of the nation's best-known technology writers. He has covered Silicon Valley and high-tech for more than 25 years, beginning with the San Jose Mercury News, as the nation's first daily high-tech reporter. His articles and editorials have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Economist and Fortune, and for two years he was a columnist for The New York Times. He was editor of Forbes ASAP, the world's largest-circulation business-tech magazine, at the height of the dot-com boom. Malone is best-known as the author or co-author of a dozen books, notably the best-selling "Virtual Corporation." Malone has also hosted three public television interview series, and most recently co-produced the celebrated PBS miniseries on social entrepreneurs, "The New Heroes." He has been the ABCNEWS.com "Silicon Insider" columnist since 2000.