Happy New Year. As we brush 2000 under the carpet, I'd like to pack nine words into a verbal time capsule, to give future generations a feel for what this past year was all about. So as "Viagra" and "Lewinsky" defined 1998 and "Columbine" and "Y2K" defined 1999, here are my candidates for the year 2000:
- Whassup. This is the official spelling of the catchword from the oft-quoted Budweiser beer commercials, featuring dimwits shouting into telephones. Just days after its premiere during the 1999 Super Bowl, it was being imitated and lampooned ad nauseum.
- Elián. As in poor little Elián González, the young Cuban refugee at the center of a media blitz that was of little actual relevance to anybody besides a few Cuban Americans. The boy was chosen almost arbitrarily as a news story, one which none of us could evade.
- Gervase. The "reality" TV series (read: game show) Survivor made Gervase Peterson, a deadbeat dad from New Jersey, one of 16 instant stars in yet another example of our anybody-can-be-a-celebrity mania. Will it ever end? Well, Survivor II begins in a couple of weeks...
- Darva. For those of you who have already forgotten, Darva Conger, a distaff Gervase, was a nobody who became famous for agreeing to marry a millionaire on TV, then reneging. Predictably, seconds before her fifteen minutes were up, Conger managed to bare her breasts for Playboy.
- Scooters. At the beginning of 2000, nobody had these things. My old roommate got one early on, when they were only available in Japan and at the Sharper Image. Three months later, they were everywhere: foot-powered, sometimes gas-powered, the nifty little Razor scooter (and imitators) immediately jumped to the top of every kid's wish list and became the Hula Hoop of the year.
- Kursk. The ill-fated Russian submarine whose sinking in Arctic waters held the world in suspense for a few days until it was reported that all the crew had died. "Who's to blame?" arguments raged for months afterward in Russia, a nation renowned for dodging the blame.
- Mullets. Funny that this long-in-the-back, short-on-top men's hair style, whose peak was in the late 1980s, would have a resurgence in notoriety in 2000, thanks to websites dedicated to the ridiculous 'do. Funnier still that, when the mullet was at its most popular, it wasn't even called a mullet.
- Dot-com. Another term that arrived on the scene several years after it should have. Seriously, before 2000, Internet companies were called Internet companies, not "dot-coms". Only when they began failing did the term come into popular use – usually disparagingly, and often coupled with adjectives like "struggling" or "dying" or "bankrupt".
- Recount! The year-end nail-biter that was the US Presidential Election kept the good people of Earth on the edges of their seats for a full month before noted imbecile George W. Bush "won" the election with help from the US Supreme Court. At least liberals can have an enemy they agree on now.