Prediction: the Webster’s word of the year for 2008 will be vet.

vet [vet], verb 1. To subject somebody or something to careful examination or scrutiny, especially when this involves determining suitability for something.

It’s a very popular concept, and rightly so. But prior to now, the term languished. This combination of letters was previously relegated to discussions of former soldiers and to journals of animal husbandry. But in 2008 they banded together big time to make a power trio rivaled only by The Police’s reunion tour. With the swiftness of a jet and the vroom implied by its initial V, this one-syllable wonder had a break-out year, making headlines, subheads, CNN scrolls, and even local news teleprompters. [1] That’s no small feat for a transitive verb. We’d previously only seen this kind of run from proper nouns, and places names — Bush, Iraq, and Beijing come to mind.

Obama was vetted, McCain was vetted. A senatorial election year, dozens of candidates state by state were vetted. The practice really caught on and even trickled down to the S.O. and familial level: micro-vetting (Guy Ritchie, John Edwards). Spitzer and that crooked Alaska senator endured a kind of late-career inverse vetting. Of course, the ultimate vettance (not a word yet, but perhaps just coined!) was Palin. A bit anticlimactic that, given her confusing run-ons in the Couric interview, run-ons which rivaled another epic failure of discourse, the one by Miss South Carolina, herself the subject of a low-level but widespread YouTube vetting. What was the last craze of this magnitude? The Rubik’s Cube? The hula hoop?

There’s really no other contender for word of the year, and I think a crowning of vet is called for by this moment in history. January 20 we uninstall Bush/Cheney 2.0, do a full drive wipe, and load an as-yet glitch-free Obama/Biden. So let’s give a last nod to vet and put it away. Let it retire. Vet can go hang out at the pool with other journalistic has-beens, zeitgeist, disingenuous, koan, and juggernaut. The Obama cabinet should be just about full by the end of the month (and year). We won’t be needing vet’s services for a while. So, this Christmas, three cheers for vet. Hip hip, hooray! Hip hip, hooray! Hip hip, hooray! And good riddance.

1 No lie, not two hours after writing this, while waiting for a haircut, I spotted vet in ESPN Magazine, the closest approximation of television available in print. I have no idea who or what was being vetted, however the back half of the 2008 year-in-review issue is printed upside-down, the back cover serving as an alternate front cover! Zany!

2 Eleven years ago, I lay on a single bed kept in a clothes closet (so my writing desk fit comfortably in the main room) at 1:30 a.m. reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. These footnotes are small remembrance of the pleasure received, the possibilities revealed, and for David Foster Wallace, may he rest in peace.