Silicon Insider: I'm Sorry, A 'WoWover'?


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.

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