“Nuke the fridge”? We kick off our series on contenders for 2008’s “Word of the Year” with a look at this new slang phrase.

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The American Dialect Society will hold the 19th annual “Word of the Year” vote in January. It’s the granddaddy of all word of the year votes–the longest running, the most academic, and the most fun.

And as we approach January 9th in San Francisco, we’ll be talking here, in these minicasts, about some of the likeliest candidates.

One very odd one that caught our eye was “nuke the fridge.”

Putting it politely, it means to exhaust the possibilities or merits of a movie franchise.

Putting it negatively, it means to destroy a movie franchise through the hubris and arrogance of a successful producer or director.

The term was coined based upon a scene in the latest Indiana Jones movie, in which the hero survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator.

“Nuke the fridge” is patterned after “jump the shark,” which was coined a few years ago to refer to anything that had peaked in popularity or quality and was now on a downward slide.

Jumping the shark referred to an episode on the sitcom Happy Days in which Fonzi water-skied over a shark, a moment thought by Happy Days aficionados (there are such things!) to be the surest sign of the show’s decline.

That’s all about “nuke the fridge.” Next time we’ll talk about “ground game.”

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