!n $34rch of w00t

In November 2004, a “Jeopardy!” contestant who was way ahead of his fellow competitors wagered an odd amount on his Final Jeopardy response: $1337. Used to seeing a nice round number at this point, the undoubtedly perplexed Alex Trebek probably shrugged it off as a symptom of the Jeopardy College Tournament. (Those kooky kids!) But gamers or programmers watching knew immediately that the contestant was sending a message to his fellow techies.

In the specialized form of tech shorthand that replaces letters with numbers, 1337 means “leet,” which translates to “elite.” By the contestant wagering that amount, he was letting other gamers, programmers and IT professionals know he was one of them.

Fast forward to December 2007; Merriam-Webster selects its word of the year: w00t.

Yes, w00t – spelled with zeroes and looking like the result of a 3-year-old banging his tiny fists over a keyboard. It’s a term of boastful celebration and a way to exclaim happiness in online gaming, but the word has seeped into the verbal lexicon of the real world.

In fact, the first time I heard w00t, it was spoken aloud by another person and not something I read online.

At Indiana University, you buy student tickets to men’s basketball games in groups of 15 to 20, so often you find yourself watching the game in a group with your friends’ friends. So at a game, as the Hoosiers labored to win their 2005 Big Ten opener, one of my…



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