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2019 Lists: Voices And Words Of The Year

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San Diego’s got its fair share of newsmaker this year. Who made it to the top of the list? Plus, this year’s Merriam-Webster word of the year is only four letters, but has been the cause of heated debates among grammarians.

Speaker 1: 00:01 Year-end Roundup's top our agenda today with the San Diego voices of the year ad words of the year. I'm wearing Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid day edition.

Speaker 1: 00:23 It's Friday, December 27th at the end of the year. We like to take stock. What were those events issues? People who drove our thoughts and conversations. Voice of San Diego continues its tradition of making those assessments on the local level. Who in San Diego made a difference, caused a controversy and perhaps shaped the future. They are voice of the year 2019 list consists of politicians, civic leaders, and ordinary citizens whose voices were heard this year in San Diego. Joining me is Sarah Libby, managing editor of the voice of San Diego and Sarah, welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. Now your first choice for voice of the year is someone who has yet to become a household name in San Diego. It's Hassan. It karata the new director of the San Diego association of governments and his choice as I read it, is not so much for what he's actually done but for the debate he's provoked over San Diego's future. Is that right?

Speaker 2: 01:25 You're absolutely right. So with this list, we always set out to choose the people who kind of kickstarted the biggest discussions in San Diego about our region and about how we want to live. And I think that this year there was no question that it was Hassan Lacrada, even though he's not a household name, you've probably heard conversations about whether we should widen highways, whether we should fix our transit system, whether we should raise taxes to fix our transit system. You know, how to improve transit to the airport and bike lanes. And all of those conversations, uh, were kicked off by Hassan Prada.

Speaker 1: 02:02 Here's a clip from an interview mid day edition did with his son at Krato earlier this year.

Speaker 3: 02:06 Honestly, your listeners need to know the lowly change that will make San Diego fans live. They're kind of the garages or some of them at least is a state of the art transit system. A system that we haven't seen in a San Diego, a system where if it's not as convenient, is more convenient than the car. A system that's priced right, that people are guaranteed a safe, reliable on time, arrival and departure.

Speaker 1: 02:34 So where does his plan for this overall transportation system stand and what should we look for in the coming year?

Speaker 2: 02:42 Yeah, so it's still very much up in the air. A lot of the details and you know, the price tag we're still not sure about. So you know, he absolutely could fail at this big grand vision for a transit system that competes with, uh, driving, uh, we don't know that yet. You see the MTS transit system is trying to raise taxes to improve, uh, their services and he supports that and says it will be kind of one piece of his plan. And so whether that effort fails will be a big thing to watch.

Speaker 1: 03:14 Another pick on the voice of the year list is also there because of her stand on growth. San Diego city council member bopper Bree.

Speaker 2: 03:22 Yeah. We were really kind of amazed at how Barbara Aubrey has almost single handedly been able to define the mayor's race. Um, you know, even though her opponent, Todd Gloria has probably more endorsements and more money, her stance on neighborhoods and growth and protecting single family homes has really been the dominant conversation in that race so far.

Speaker 1: 03:47 And you included a victim who became the voice of the Poway synagogue shooting rabbi Israel Goldstein. Why was he chosen for this year's list?

Speaker 2: 03:56 Yeah, so like you said, a lot of people on our list are civic leaders and elected officials who sort of use their platform to speak out. And other people are members of the community who sort of landed in the spotlight by circumstance. And he's absolutely one of those, you know, he didn't set out to be under this national spotlight, but the shooting at the synagogue put him there and he became this very, you know, outspoken voice of unity in the face of a really tragic situation.

Speaker 1: 04:27 Do you have a favorite voice of the year recipient?

Speaker 2: 04:31 Uh, I don't know that I do, you know, assemblywoman Lorena Gonzales, uh, is always a contender for being on the list because she tends to take on really explosive issues. And this year that was more true than ever. So you saw her at the center of this fight over whether to reclassify workers who are part of the gig economy and make them employers or employees, excuse me. And that debate is still, you know, at the highest level we've seen, we've seen efforts to overturn the law. It's being challenged in court, it's going to be challenged at the ballot box. And so that will continue to be just a major conversation over the next year. And you also saw her, um, once again step into this fight over whether to reform vaccine mandates, which was an incredibly explosive conversation throughout the year that you know, erupted in all these fights at the Capitol. And so she's always somebody who's just kind of, you know, in the center of a lot of controversies.

Speaker 1: 05:30 And you also list the doctor who was at the center of that debate over medical exemptions for school vaccinations.

Speaker 2: 05:36 Yeah. Earlier this year we were reporting, we reported that this doctor who has a medical practice in South park was kind of quietly doling out these medical vaccine exemptions. And she ended up writing exemptions for a third of the children in San Diego unified who are excused from those vaccine mandates. And so she sort of unknowingly in doing that, kicked off this whole effort to reform who is allowed to have those exemptions.

Speaker 1: 06:06 Education played a big factor in your naming of the voices of the year 2019. Tell us about the people from education on the list.

Speaker 2: 06:14 Absolutely. So Kia Ashana Christopher is another person who's not a household name. She's a guidance counselor at Porter elementary school in Lincoln park. And she came to us and really blew the whistle in a way we don't often see with school officials and said that, you know, the conditions at her school, if they existed in a place like LA Jolla, people would have caused an uprising. So she said that students there were not getting services that they were legally entitled to. Um, there were a number of public safety concerns, parents breaking up fights when they dropped their children off for school. And so the fact that she was willing to be so outspoken about what she was seeing on her campus, uh, we thought really made her a strong contender for this list. And some other education related folks on the list were the men who came forward to ACU school board member, Kevin Biser of sexual harassment and assault. Now he's still on the school board, although a number of people have called for him to resign. Um, but them coming forward and starting that conversation, we thought really, you know, change things in San Diego this year.

Speaker 1: 07:23 How did Navy seal Edward Gallagher get on this list?

Speaker 2: 07:27 Yeah. So as soon as every year there is somebody who's part of a big national conversation that has roots in San Diego. And this year I think that was absolutely the case with Eddie Gallagher. You know, the Navy seal who was accused of war crimes and then became this kind of poster child for president Trump and Duncan Hunter to say he was mistreated. And so, you know, just the conversations around the military justice system and when it's appropriate for the president to intervene. I think Eddie Gallagher was absolutely at the center of those conversations this year.

Speaker 1: 08:01 Does making this list help with the year in better perspective for you?

Speaker 2: 08:05 It absolutely does. You know, we have a pretty singular focus on who was starting big conversations and so we don't really set out to honor people for their positions or what they've done throughout the year. We're really looking for who you know, sparked a big dialogue about the future of San Diego. And so when you put it through that lens, um, it's really interesting every year to see who ends up on it.

Speaker 1: 08:31 And our listeners can read the entire 2019 voice of the year and I've been speaking with the voices managing editor, Sarah Libby, Sarah, thank you so much.

Speaker 4: 08:43 Thanks so much. [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 08:48 after a successful run in East village in Los Angeles, the immersive theater production of relics of the war

Speaker 5: 08:56 is back in San Diego. Earlier this year, KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando gave us a closer look at this intriguing play. Imagine a room so filled with ephemera that to soar through it all would take a lifetime. Inside this dusty den, a faded pages and rusted memories resides a curator trying to unravel the mysteries of the lives represented by all the artifacts he's collected. No one can recall when the hypnotists arrived. They look no different than ourselves. Relics of the hypnotist war is an invitation to be part of a historical narrative that's different every time it's told.

Speaker 6: 09:37 I'd like you to take your time to go through the relics, take your time to go through all of the passports we have and to examine the lives that were lost during the great hypnotist Wars.

Speaker 5: 09:51 The hypnotists created a sleep epidemic that the curator tells us resulted in sleep. Cemeteries. There will never again be anywhere is hopeless and as beautiful as the sleep cemeteries. The idea for relics of the hypnotist war came to Ryan Griffith when he was traveling in Russia and randomly met two women on the street.

Speaker 6: 10:14 They were talking to a man and then they woke up and they're missing their purses, and they warned me that there were hypnotists on the streets of st Petersburg and that you should, you should never look anyone in the eye.

Speaker 5: 10:27 Griffith teaches fiction writing at Grossmont college. He initially created relics of the hypnotist war for a gallery in Istanbul, then redesigned it at space for art here in San Diego last year.

Speaker 6: 10:38 And it just so happened that I was traveling around the world and through Turkey and through Hungary and Russia and all these sort of fascist dictators, you know, and then obviously coming back to the United States in 2016 feeling that the world was falling asleep in some way.

Speaker 5: 10:56 Griffith's new show arrives in an interesting creative context. Critics have noted how a quiet place suggests a world where if we keep our mouth shut, we'll survive while bird box tells us if we close our eyes, we might escape evil. Now, relics of the hypnotist war asks what could happen if we have all our senses, perhaps even our consciousness shut off. This turns. What initially seems like a Curio shop escape room into an allegory or political fable for those struggling to understand why so many around the world seem to have fallen morally asleep, seeding their wills as Griffith suggests to hypnotic leaders.

Speaker 6: 11:35 And it felt like a metaphor for the time in some way. Although the, this is, the narrative itself is not grounded in any time. There's, there's, it's never, it's never pinned down. In fact, there's a, there's a huge argument to be made that we're, we're still in the midst of the, and we're still being put to sleep.

Speaker 5: 11:55 Griffith encourages us to find meaning in the objects presented, like the passports we can look through and that's sometimes crumble in our hands.

Speaker 6: 12:03 I mean, especially when you see that the handwriting or the particular idiosyncrasies of their appearance. So I think that's probably just human nature to want to try to imagine and inhabit that life. You know, like a lot of those passports were from essentially from world war II and people fleeing Nazi Germany.

Speaker 5: 12:24 So what are the people in the hypnotist for fleeing from? What does it all mean? Griffis says he doesn't know the answers because maybe there are none, or maybe it's not about knowing what it means, but rather just being alerted to the dangers of falling asleep or surrendering to the will of the hypnotist. This leads to the ritual at the end of the show,

Speaker 6: 12:45 typically we go out side and we drink wine and then we debrief the show.

Speaker 5: 12:51 That's when the audience collaborators can share personal accounts of falling asleep in their own lives or times when they fallen under another spell. It's what Griffith calls a community narrative. A community's attempt to understand what's happened or more importantly, what is happening now in the real world. Beth, Armando KPBS news

Speaker 1: 13:12 for information on how to see the production visit relics of the hypnotist, when linguists and dictionary writers come up with the word of the year, it's often something brand new to the lexicon from technology or the internet, but not always for 2019 the word and words of the year are familiar, but their meanings in 2019 may be surprising or even controversial. Midday edition cohost Jade Heinemann spoke with Emily Brewster, senior editor of Miriam Webster about their 2019 words of the year. So how does Miriam Webster determine its words of the year? What's the process?

Speaker 7: 14:02 Our process is entirely data driven. We look for a word that has been looked up significantly at Merriam-Webster dot com over the course of the year, and that has seen a dramatic increase in use in look-ups since the previous year.

Speaker 1: 14:17 Okay. So now that we know how the words of the year are decided on, let's reveal what this year's word of the year is. I'll let you do the honors.

Speaker 7: 14:25 And Webster's word of the year for 2019 is the pronoun they [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 14:30 So how does Miriam Webster go about deciding to expand the definition of a word like they did with [inaudible]? What's

Speaker 7: 14:36 the word? Yay. Yes. We added a new sense of day to our dictionary in September. Uh, that new sense is defined as used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is non-binary. But this increase in lookups that we saw led us to determine that this was the word of the year. Only took into consideration evidence of lookups from before that announcement and we entered this new definition of the word they because we have significant evidence of it being used and it has been in use for about 20 years now.

Speaker 8: 15:09 Right. Quid pro quo was the runner up to the word of the year. That was of course due to the impeachment of president Donald Trump. Here's Gordon Sana land, the U S ambassador to the European union. Was there a quid pro quo as I testified previously with regard to the requested white house call and the white house meeting? The answer is yes. So what does quid pro

Speaker 7: 15:32 well mean exactly in what do we know about its origin? It comes from the Latin phrase, meaning something for something. We define it as something given or received for something else or a deal arranging a quid pro quo. It was originally used to refer to something that you would obtain from apothecary when one medicine was substituted for another either accidentally or dishonestly and then soon after it came to have a more general meaning of substitution. And one of the words in the top five was egregious. Uh, when did it look ups for that word surge? The lookups for agregious surged in October when reports surfaced that a Boeing pilot had used the word to describe an issue with those seven 37 max planes that had resulted in fatal crashes killing people in October, 2018 and March, 2019. And what exactly does egregious mean? It means conspicuously bad, but it used to mean a distinguished or eminent.

Speaker 7: 16:29 It a comes from a Latin word that means basically apart from the herd. So it used to be a positive thing, but no more. Number seven on the list was a word used by attorney general William Barr, in describing a letter he received from Mueller in response to bar's summary of the special counsel's report, which has been referred to as the Mueller report. That word is snitty. Uh, what was William Barr saying about that letter from Mueller? William Barr used that word to characterize the letter that Muller had sent criticizing bar's own summary of the Muller report and snitty spiked 150000%. It's a, it's a word that is not, not all that commonly looked up under other circumstances. And what exactly does it mean? It means disagreeable. Ill tempered. All right. The last word that made the top 10 list was exculpate searches for it spiked when special counsel Robert Mueller, who led the investigation into Russian interference into the U S election, said this to the house of representatives in July.

Speaker 9: 17:28 The fighting indicates that, uh, the president, uh, uh, was not, uh, the president was not as Sculpin exculpated for the accident he allegedly committed.

Speaker 7: 17:45 So what does exculpate mean in the way that Mueller used there? It means to clear from alleged fault or guilt, and it comes from the Latin word culpa, meaning blame, which is also the source of our word culpable. So many of our words have come from this impeachment, uh, hearing, uh, I've been speaking with Emily Brewster, senior editor at Miriam Webster. Emily, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you for having me. For the full list of this year's words of the year, visit

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.