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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It happened to Xerox and more recently to Google, and now "wikileaks" has joined the list of proper names that are common enough to enter the English language as their own word.
Texas-based Global Language Monitor on Tuesday said the website WikiLeaks, which has publicly released thousands of confidential U.S. government documents, has been referred to by so many people that it has met the criteria of reach, depth and breadth to be considered its own word.
"Wikileaks joins a number of new media and high technology companies whose names and functions are being incorporated into the language," said Paul JJ Payack, who heads Global Language Monitor (GLM). "These include Google, Twitter and the 'friending' function of Facebook."
GLM's research shows the word first appearing in global media in 2006. It has now been cited more than 300 million times. The group's standards include a minimum of 25,000 citations in English-speaking media.
Payack said that as a word, wikileaks is spelled without the capitalized "W" or "L", but when referring to the website, the spelling remains WikiLeaks. It is similar to when Google is used as a verb, as in "googled," or searched, for a subject.
His group, which focuses its research on the use of English words in the media, recently said "spillcam," a reference to the camera videotaping oil gushing from the BP oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, was among the top words of 2010.
GLM also predicted "Palinism," a reference to conservative politician Sarah Palin's malapropisms such as "refudiate", which combines refute and repudiate, would be a top word for 2011.
In wikileaks, "wiki" is of Hawaiian origin and is typically used to mean "quick" or "fast," according to GLM. The leaks portion of the word reflects the non-profit website's mission to publish confidential, private or classified documents.
WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange was recently jailed in the United Kingdom and held for possible extradition to Sweden where officials want to question him over alleged sex crimes, but Assange claims that he is part of an aggressive U.S. probe into his leaks of confidential U.S. documents.
Assange and WikiLeaks recently released secret diplomatic cables telling of U.S. dealings with governments around the world, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said his department is considering using the U.S. Espionage Act to prosecute the release of sensitive information by WikiLeaks.
Reporting by Bob Tourtellotte; Editing by Christine Kearney