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Etc...

And the winner is ...

Let's say it is up to you to help decide which word or phrase deserves to be judged the most dominant of the year just past. Would it be "wardrobe malfunction"? Perhaps "mash-up" (a blend of songs into one cohesive piece of music)? Or maybe "flip-flopper"? Not if you voted with the majority at the Linguistic Society of America annual convention last weekend in Oakland, Calif. From a field of these and other nominations, the group chose "red state, blue state, purple state" as the best candidate, a spokes-man said. He said the phrase ("red" symbolizes states with Republican political leanings, "blue" means those tending Democratic, and "purple" indicates so-called swing states) "engaged the American public for the entire year." Nothing else, he added, "showed the bloodthirsty, population- engaging election as this."

Election with candidates in the mud? Must be Illinois

If Illinois can have a state insect (Monarch butterfly), fish (bluegill), and fossil (Tully monster), why not a reptile and amphibian? That's a question Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and Rep. Bob Biggins (R) asked themselves and, by extension, residents of the state as part of a mock election. The informal vote was done in conjunction with the Chicago Herpetological Society and Brookfield Zoo, with ballots posted on the zoo's website. The painted turtle, a species found in lakes and ponds, was the top choice as official reptile. The Eastern tiger salamander got the nod as the official amphibian. Perhaps best of all, the candidates didn't resort to mud-slinging, prompting Quinn to comment, "Maybe our human candidates should try living in the mud for a while." The top vote-getters for Illinois state reptile and amphibian:

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Reptile

1. Painted turtle
2. Garden-variety garter snake
3. Eastern box turtle

Amphibian

1. Eastern tiger salamander
2. Gray tree frog
3. American toad

- Associated Press