From the Founder

A Message for the New Year

Dear Friends of Planet Word,

Well, 2020 was certainly full of ups and downs. I was overjoyed that Planet Word actually opened after so many years of planning and dreaming, but that joy was tempered by the ongoing tragedy of Covid-19. Now we’re closed again, but it has been exciting to see our virtual programming, virtual field trips, and social media posts making new friends far and wide, people who might never have been able to visit Planet Word in person in the best of times.

Thank you to everyone who voted for us and helped us become a Top 10 Attraction in USA Today’s Readers Choice Awards! That, and a Gold Award from the New York DrivenxDesign competition, helped end the year on an up note.

Two weeks ago, I participated in a Zoom broadcast of the Word of the Year deliberations. For the first time, anyone could listen online to American Dialect Society members weigh the pros and cons of words nominated in several categories, aligning with Planet Word’s belief that language belongs to all of us . . . that we are all collectors, curators if you will, of our words from the day we are born.

The WOTY discussion reflected our preoccupations in 2020: Covid, of course, but also antiracism, social distancing, defund, and essential workers, issues that were top of mind all year long. I doubt whether those words will just fade into the dictionary as we enter 2021. They will become part of the discussion and debate we bring with us into the new year as well.

The discussion also reminded me of another basic Planet Word belief: that language is always changing and evolving to meet the needs of the time. Maybe some of the words in the “most useful” category will fade from use in 2021 as the pandemic recedes, neologisms like Blursday, bubble/pod, doomscrolling, and superspreader.  But they were useful, and even lent a lighthearted, if rueful, tone to our 2020 conversations.

That brings up another side of language that Planet Word was created to spotlight: the fun, playful side. Everyone on the Planet Word staff loved hearing laughter and singing and joking coming from our galleries and echoing down the stairwells on the days we were open. That’s when we knew we were truly bringing language to life.

So in that spirit, I want to send you into 2021 with a Planet Word gift of some lighthearted words.  If the museum’s doors can’t reopen to welcome you just yet, at least I can share some of the fun words that our network of clever wordsmiths have been sharing with us.  Thank you to all the friends who’ve been forwarding puns and wordplay to keep us grinning through setbacks and successes. Let me share a few favorites to start your year off with a smile!

  • In a lecture, a linguistics professor claimed: “In English, a double negative forms a positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative.  But there isn’t a single language in which a double positive can express a negative.”A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”
  • My neighbor asked why I put up a canopy in our yard with brights lights and funky music. I said, “Now is the winter of our disco tent.”
  • If you have to wear glasses and a mask, you may be eligible for condensation.
  • Relief: What trees do in the spring.

Here’s wishing you a joyful 2021.

—Ann Friedman, founder, Planet Word