Topples "frisson," which held the distinction for five excruciating years.
SERS OF THE slight but punchy "brio" are expressing a mix of pride and dismay over today's announcement that the two-syllable noun has just achieved the distinction of being named "Most Over-Used Clever Word" in the English-language dictionary.
"Yes, I must admit to having felt a little frisson of excitement at hearing the news," said an indexer at Merriam-Webster. "'Brio,' after all, can be utilized in so many contexts, so it was just a matter of time before we gave it the top spot. Or should I say the top bottom spot."
Merriam-Webster based its final decision on brio's impressive ranking in five basic criteria:
1) Not too short a word. (e.g. "Ur-")
2) Not too long a word. (e.g. "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious")
3) Not too mundanely English sounding. (e.g. "bug")
4) Foreign sounding in a good way, but not in a bad way. (e.g. "parfait" but not "jihad")
5) Usability across disciplines. (e.g. "'Now this is prosciutto with real brio,' claimed the chef." "The political brio of his plan impressed even his opponents.")
Explained one judge at Merriam-Webster, "We have found that words scoring high in what we call our 'Five-Point Over-Use Star' predictably go on to do very well in the over-used word rankings. You see, because we have five points, you can easily draw an attractive star graphic."
However, many loyal "brio" apologists are undismayed, and plan to keep it trendy in the lexicon by naming their first-born boy or girl with the Most Over-Used Clever Word.
Said one expectant mother and enthusiastic "brio" fan, "We would like to make it as common a name as 'Britney' is today! Our goal is to have at least two Briospreferably one boy and one girlin the top 24 contestants by American Idol Season 25!!"
"Yes, it is so marvelously gender-neutral, don't you agree?" asked another expectant mother of a Brio-to-be.
If the baby-naming trend takes off, Merriam-Webster says the word may eventually achieve the rare distinction of also being awarded "Most Obnoxious Girl's Name" and "Most Obnoxious Boy's Name" simultaneously, all the while boasting a record number of years holding on as Most Over-Used.
"Talk about clever," said the judge, "that's downright diabolical."
© 8.17.10 Kate Heidel