Word of the Year: 'Pimp-Chic'

Britney's short-lived marriage mixes with international political events in a quirky new almanac celebrating the events of 2006.

To many, the word "almanac" may conjure up images of Ben Franklin and outdated tips for farmers, like charting the moon and harvesting rutabaga. But British-born photographer turned author/master of miscellany, Ben Schott, takes an original approach to an old classic in the new American edition of "Schott's Almanac."

"It's a yearbook that sort of sums up everything about the year from gossip to geopolitics … high culture and low culture, which is the way that I think we really think about the year," Schott said.

Schott produced his first British almanac in 2005 and is going global with his version of this classic reference book. To approach the American edition he said, "you've got to have Britney and K-Fed, as well as the Dubai port scandal … these two things exist in our year. It's the same year. And the year is a sort of fabric of many strands of many different things."

How does one man keep up with all that information? Well, he doesn't.

"I'm not the sole researcher," Schott admitted despite his name on the title. "I'm the editor, and sadly the type-setter."

However, he does spend much of his time in libraries and surfing the Web.

Accidental Industry

Schott admits that his foray into this market was an accident. It began as a Christmas card, or a photographic reference booklet of sorts that he sent his advertising clients in 2002 to persuade them that he was still alive and in need of work.

It was such a hit that it attracted the attention of Bloomsbury publishing. Thus began "Schott's Original Miscellany," a slim volume that shocked the literary world when it became a best-seller in Britain in 2002.

"Schott's Food and Drink Miscellany" followed in 2004, which included all the lyrics to the Chiquita banana song. A year later came "Schott's Sports, Gaming, & Idling Miscellany" with entries on navel-gazing and Pac-Man.

He truly enjoys weeding through chaotic and strange information and presenting the public with things he finds interesting. Now, Schott's almanacs and miscellanies can be found in 15 or 16 languages, so many, he's not entirely sure.

Schott said the international branding is "surreal and pleasing in equal measure."

The almanacs include one of his own inventions -- the word of the year -- which sums up the year by combining several pivotal moments. For example, "Brownsploitation" is, according to Schott, "the exploitation of Dan Brown's work for other people's profit."

In another case, he coined the term "smirting" to describe people who are sent outside to smoke and then end up flirting with each other.

His 2006 word of the year is "pimp-chic," citing the Oscar-winning song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from "Hustle and Flow," the death of Gordon Parks (the man Schott said "created exploitation"), and various spin-offs of MTV's show "Pimp My Ride."

So how does he continue to find new information?

"You draw, you browse, you snoop, you wander around with your ears open to a degree that you don't normally do," confessed Schott.

But after all that surfing, scraping, and studying, Schott hopes that his work, which deals with the serious, the trivial, the significant, and the frivolous, simultaneously, is simply "a book that really sums up the year."

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