At year end, the media always runs stories about the "word of the year." Most of these honors are bestowed by companies that sell dictionaries as a way to call attention to that disappearing print reference book.
Words come from everywhere. TV shows are productive -- look at "Battlestar Galactica's" "frak," Stephen Colbert's "truthiness," and "30 Rock's" "blurgh."
Wacky news events like the Steven Slater JetBlue story get people talking about "hitting the slide" or "pulling a Slater."
Politicians accidently coin terms like "misunderestimate" and "refudiate." Sarah Palin drew plenty of attention for using "refudiate" which is her accidental mashup of refute and repudiate. It was named Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary. A very poor choice.
The World Cup brought us "vuvuzelas" and media attention put "robo-signers", "gleeks" and "mama grizzlies" in front of our faces.
Many of these had their 15 minutes of fame and will fade from usage during 2011. So the real mission of these lists is to identify the words that will stick.
The American Dialect Society's Word of the Year is one of the more accepted groups making up a list and selection.
In 2009, it was "tweet" and in 2008 it was "bailout".
Some of the possibilities are below - How many do you know? How many do you use?
- man up
- Slurpee (I thought this might be connected to the thrown ones on Glee, but it's from Obama described the economy as a car that the Democrats were trying to get out of a ditch. Republicans, he said, were "just standing there... sipping on a Slurpee." The President's "beer summit" buzzed in July 2009.
- 99er - long-term unemployed were called 99ers for their extended 99 weeks of benefits.
- double-dip - a recession characterized by a decline, a brief recovery, and then a further decline. I believe this term just re-emerged in 2010.
- fat-finger errors - finger hits the wrong key because of a tiny mobile/tablet keyboard also "thumbo"
- foreclosure mill
- belieber - a fanatical devotee of the pop singer Justin Bieber. A word guaranteed to disappear - just as with other pop culture terms like
- gleek - fans of the TV show "Glee" admitting to be Glee + geek. Did they know that gleek had already meant squirting saliva through your teeth?
- apocalypse fatigue - tired of news about global warming, thermageddon. Maya 2012 and other doom and gloom.
- data exhaust - that digital trail you leave behind you online (like these posts!) Also something that marketers are very interested in tracking to give you ads based on their "behavioral targeting."
- airport security gave us backscatter, enhanced pat-down, freedom pat, freedom grope, freedom fondle, and freedom frisk. Oh yeah, also the re-emergence of "junk" when John Tyner recorded his TSA encounter on his mobile phone and posted it online. "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested."
So, what did the ADS pick as the word for 2010? It was app. The clipped version of application (as in software application) for the small, easy to download applications that are the heart of smart phones and tablets. The word will stick - as long as we use those devices.