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pluto

verb [transitive] [often passive]

to give someone or something a less important position than they had before

'The feeling among some was that the ever-maligned Rona Ambrose, who was moved from being environment minister to minister of intergovernmental affairs, really got plutoed in last week's federal cabinet shuffle. Yet there were those who felt the politico most plutoed in the shift was Vic Toews, who went from being justice minister to president of the treasury board.'

The Montreal Gazette 10th January 2007

If things aren't going particularly well at work and you're wondering what the future holds, watch your step, there's just a chance that you might get plutoed! The downward slide of Joe Bloggs or Joe Blow from 'national' to 'regional' sales manager might previously have been described as 'being demoted', but in 2007 the same concept can be referred to as 'being plutoed'.

the use of pluto as a verb meaning 'demote' or 'devalue' takes inspiration from the recent demise of the 'planet' Pluto

On 5th January 2007, the 17th annual vote of the American Dialect Society crowned the new verb pluto, with the meaning 'to demote or devalue someone or something', as its 'Word of the Year' for 2006. Pluto claimed the winning spot by narrowly overtaking the (arguably more useful) expression climate canary, referring to something which indicates a looming environmental catastrophe caused by climate change (a canary was at one time used as a way of signalling impending disaster in a coalmine – but that's another word story, watch this space …).

One nice thing about the outcome of the vote is that English potentially has a new verb, a slightly rarer occurrence in the world of neologisms, which is mainly dominated by nouns. Pluto is a transitive verb with third person singular present plutos, present participle plutoing and simple past/past participle plutoed. It mainly occurs in the passive form in structures such as be/get plutoed. So far the majority of web citations relate more to coverage of its status as 'Word of the Year' than actual use. It therefore remains to be seen whether pluto the verb is here to stay, or whether it too will be plutoed into the 'black hole' of ephemeral expressions.

Background – pluto

The use of pluto as a verb meaning 'demote' or 'devalue' takes inspiration from the recent demise of the 'planet' Pluto. Pluto's official status as a planet has been controversial since as far back as 1992, but in 2006 the debate came to a head when the International Astronomical Union created an official definition for the term planet, and decided that Pluto no longer met all of the specified criteria. After being described as a planet for the 76 years since its discovery, Pluto has now been reclassified with the expression dwarf planet.

Though astronomers would argue that the revised description of Pluto is more about 'reclassification' than actual 'demotion', public reaction to the decision engendered the idea of it 'being devalued' and so inspired tongue-in-cheek use of pluto as a verb.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 12th March 2007.

Open Dictionary

dead white (European) male

a man … whose achievements may have been overestimated because he belonged to the gender and ethnic group … that was dominant at the time

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clapped-out

old and in bad condition, or no longer effective