2012 Words of the Year

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for making reflections, resolutions, hot midnight smooches—and a pretty vicious New Year’s Day hangover. But for word nerds, it’s also a time to discuss the words of the year.

2011’s selections reflected upheaval. There was occupy, pragmatic, and Dictionary.com’s odd choice of tergiversate. 2012’s top words are more diverse. Let’s give them a look.

This is Global Language Monitor’s selection for 2012. Paul JJ Payack, president of Global Language Monitor, noted, “Apocalypse  (Armageddon, and similar terms) reflects a growing fascination with various ‘end-of-the-world’ scenarios, or at least the end of life as we know it.  This year the Mayan Apocalypse was well noted, but some eight of the top words and phrases were directly related to a sense of impending doom.”

The organization’s other top words were: deficit, Olympiad, meme, and Frankenstorm.

Dictionary.com selected bluster this year. Why bluster? As they explain on their Hot Word blog: “In Old English bluster meant ‘to wander or stray,’ and today it has a few, closely related meanings. It means both ‘to roar and be tumultuous, as wind’ and ‘noisy, empty threats or protests; inflated talk.’ 2012 was full of bluster from the skies and from the mouths of pundits. As the U.S. Congress faces the looming fiscal cliff, we can only anticipate more bluster from politicians. Hopefully, the bluster will only come from them, not from more nor’easters and early winter storms.”

capitalism & socialism
These two words share the top spot for Merriam-Webster’s words of the year, thanks to the presidential election and debates. Confusion arose as to how the terms are defined.

capitalism: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market

socialism: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods

Also on Merriam-Webster’s list were: meme, schadenfreude, and malarkey.

Oxford American Dictionaries chose this as its word of the year. GIF is a computer file format that creates looped animations, such as this: Captain Picard GIF

GIF turned 25 this year, but it has never been more popular. As Katherine Martin, head of the U.S. Dictionaries Program for Oxford University Press, explained, “GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”

Fun fact: Most people pronounce GIF with a hard G, as in good. However, some in the computer world insist this is a mispronunciation, claiming it should be pronounced with a J sound, as in jam. Of course, there’s a website about the debate.

2012 year in slang
Gangnam Style
Heard of this thing called Gangnam Style? Okay, duh, you have. “Gangnam Style” is the mega hit by South Korean rapper Psy. It is the first video in history to reach one billion online views.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the famous video:

YOLO is short for You Only Live Once. It’s a popular hashtag on twitter and was memorialized in rapper Drake’s song “The Motto.”

Example: Thinking about drinking a pitcher of that mystery punch—well, YOLO.

Swag is short for swagger and means being or having something cool. It gained popularity from Justin Beiber’s song “Boyfriend.”

Example: I got so much free stuff because I’m super famous. Swag!

Cray is short for crazy. It was popularized in Jay-Z’s song “Niggas in Paris.”

Example: You’re going out with that guy again? Girl, that’s cray.

What are your favorite and least favorite words of the year? Share with us in the comments section.

What decimate really means

If you are reading this from your underground doomsday bunker, I thank you for taking the time from your end-of-the-world preparations to read my humble blog. Yes, today is the day some people decided the ancient Mayans predicted would be the end of the world. So, in the spirit of all things apocalyptic, I thought we should talk about epic disasters—more specifically, the word decimate.

What do you think when you hear the word decimate? Bridge-swallowing earthquakes? Nuclear wastelands? Robot overlords?

Decimate has come to mean near-total destruction, but that’s not the technical definition of the word. Decimate comes from the Latin word decem, which means ten. Thus, decimate means to reduce something by a tenth. Merriam-Webster lists the first definition of decimate as: “to select by lot and kill every tenth man of.”

Destroying a tenth of something is still some serious carnage, but I doubt it matches the type of destruction most people now identify with the word. However, that’s okay. The meaning has changed over time, where it now can mean anything from a storm knocking down every tenth tree to robot overlords exterminating all of humankind.

And just in case this is my last post, I’ll leave you with this—an introduction to your new leaders. Good luck in the apocalypse, suckers.


During last week’s vice presidential debate, Joe Biden dropped some old man slang on the world when he called fellow candidate Paul Ryan’s response malarkey.

In case you don’t know, here’s how Merriam-Webster defines malarkey: “insincere or foolish talk.”

“Your grandma smells like pickled beets!” Morris yelled.
“No, she doesn’t,” Walter interjected. “That’s malarkey.”

“Well, I think your grandma drinks blood,” Walter said snidely.
“No way. That’s malarkey!” Morris cried.

“What you just said was malarkey,” Walter responded.
“That’s malarkey that you think what I just said was malarkey.” Morris replied.

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, we don’t know the origin of malarkey. But we do know that it entered American English in the mid-1920s. It’s also a surname, which makes me think some guy with the last name Malarkey was quite the storyteller in the mid-1920s.

As if malarkey weren’t good enough, there are other old-timey words that have the same meaning. Toss one of these nouns at the next fibber you come across:




















Airplane call signs


If you’re flying and your airplane doesn’t fall from the sky and leave you burning to death in a horrible crash, you might be able to thank my friend Joe. He just graduated from air traffic control school. (Congrats!) And it was because of him that I got to learn the awesomely fun call signs air traffic controllers and pilots use.

Here’s the list:

A – Alpha
B – Bravo
C – Charlie
D – Delta
E – Echo
F – Foxtrot
G – Golf
H – Hotel
I – Igloo
J – Juliet
K – Kilo
L – Lima
M – Mike
N – November
O – Oscar
P – Papa
Q – Quebec
R – Romeo
S – Sierra
T – Tango
U – Uniform
V – Victor
W – Whiskey
X – X-ray
Y – Yankee
Z – Zulu

Apparently, air traffic controllers use their initials when they make contact with pilots. If I were in charge of air traffic, and let’s all be thankful that I’m not, my initials would be “Echo Romeo.” Pretty cool, if you ask me.

What would yours be?

Lorem ipsum: translation, history, and fun

It's safe to say this person is a nerd.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Oh, sorry. This above paragraph isn’t just placeholder text; it’s what we’re talking about today. Anyone who has worked in page design can probably recite this paragraph by heart. But even if you’re not a graphic designer (or a Latin enthusiast), you might be familiar with “lorem ipsum.” And, if not, it’s time to geek out on something new.

What is lorem ipsum?
Lorem ipsum (the name for the text at the beginning of this post) is a string of words used as dummy text when designing web pages and newspaper and magazine pages, etc. Before designers drop in the official text, they use this to help them figure out placement of stories.

What does it mean?
Contrary to popular belief, lorem ipsum isn’t a random collection of Latin words. It’s actually an excerpt from Cicero’s De finibus bonorum et malorum (On the boundaries of good and evils), written in 45 B.C.

The excerpt, when translated to English, reads:

But I must explain to you how all this mistaken idea of denouncing pleasure and praising pain was born and I will give you a complete account of the system, and expound the actual teachings of the great explorer of the truth, the master-builder of human happiness. No one rejects, dislikes, or avoids pleasure itself, because it is pleasure, but because those who do not know how to pursue pleasure rationally encounter consequences that are extremely painful. Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?

On the other hand, we denounce with righteous indignation and dislike men who are so beguiled and demoralized by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain and trouble that are bound to ensue; and equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil and pain. These cases are perfectly simple and easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammelled and when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed and every pain avoided. But in certain circumstances and owing to the claims of duty or the obligations of business it will frequently occur that pleasures have to be repudiated and annoyances accepted. The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains.

(As you may have figured out, the lorem ipsum text designers use is not the entire excerpt, but merely portions of it.)

History of lorem ipsum
According to lipsum.com, the now industry standard started in the 1500s “when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book.” It gained popularity in the 1960s with the release of Letraset sheets and has since become standard, thanks to desktop publishing software.

Fun lorem ipsum
A legion of snarky designers has since unleashed their own humorous adaptations of the historic lorem ipsum. Here’s a sample of modern text you can use the next time you’re in need of a little lorem ipsum:

Bacom ipsum
Sample: Bacon salami fatback turducken leberkas, brisket tongue jowl andouille boudin. Salami boudin tail, corned beef jerky rump sausage bresaola. Filet mignon ball tip flank pork chop. Swine spare ribs sausage, drumstick tenderloin ribeye frankfurter biltong salami kielbasa tri-tip meatloaf rump.

Veggie ipsum
Sample: Parsley parsnip gumbo garlic chickweed nori tatsoi soybean celery bok choy amaranth broccoli rabe shallot onion plantain. Catsear coriander celery azuki bean sierra leone bologi garlic melon shallot gourd lettuce winter purslane aubergine endive pumpkin ricebean nori silver beet. Broccoli beetroot watercress bamboo shoot spinach brussels sprout yarrow asparagus sea lettuce taro corn eggplant celery groundnut leek catsear.

Tuna ipsum
Sample: Bitterling freshwater shark hussar wasp fish codlet American sole galjoen fish kuhli loach Rio Grande perch barb tiger shark hillstream loach, slender mola. Whitetip reef shark Atlantic silverside zebrafish silverside pearleye pumpkinseed stream catfish turkeyfish, barbeled houndshark Colorado squawfish bowfin? Arctic char brown trout porbeagle shark, “pineconefish sablefish kappy.

Hipster ipsum
Sample: Ethical tofu scenester pork belly, irony brunch food truck. Carles butcher Austin, gentrify aesthetic american apparel street art pour-over gluten-free irony four loko mustache. Street art farm-to-table odd future helvetica cosby sweater gastropub godard, high life mustache selvage. Mcsweeney’s viral farm-to-table aesthetic, authentic wayfarers street art craft beer bushwick mumblecore cray tattooed letterpress fingerstache cosby sweater. Art party typewriter wolf, umami salvia hella kogi vinyl lo-fi pitchfork echo park. Tumblr hella thundercats gentrify biodiesel pork belly. Carles whatever forage polaroid, street art beard cray wayfarers.

Liquor ipsum
Sample: Beefeater belvedere black cossack three wise men cape cod. Bijou metaxa moonwalk, champagne cocktail lime rickey scapa wine cooler cutty sark scots whisky. Imperial cointreau, cactus jack gordon’s old mr. boston glenburgie pepe lopez. The goldeneye polmos krakow, crown royal port charlotte black tooth grin paradise ron rico, leite de onça shirley temple black. Pall mall pulteney flaming volcano, piña colada imperial martini. Murphy’s, royal bermuda cocktail, nog-a-sake springbank white lady or delilah benriach hi-fi salty dog brandy daisy kalimotxo, bloody aztec; glengoyne golden dream.

Gangsta ipsum
Sample: Lorizzle ipsizzle dolor sizzle amizzle, bling bling adipiscing elizzle. Nullam its fo rizzle velit, hizzle volutpizzle, suscipit check out this, gravida vizzle, arcu. Pellentesque check it out tortor. Sizzle yo mamma. Crunk sizzle dolizzle dapibus turpis tempus bow wow wow. Maurizzle boofron nibh funky fresh gangsta. Mofo cool i saw beyonces tizzles and my pizzle went crizzle. Da bomb eleifend rhoncizzle shiznit. In phat habitasse bling bling dictumst. Ass dapibus. Curabitur tellizzle urna, pretizzle brizzle, crazy boom shackalack, eleifend crunk, nunc. Sizzle suscipit. Things sempizzle velit dawg for sure.

TV ipsum
Sample: Makin their way the only way they know how. Thats just a little bit more than the law will allow. Well were movin on up to the east side to a deluxe apartment in the sky. Their house is a museum where people come to see em. They really are a scream the Addams Family. The movie star the professor and Mary Ann here on Gilligans Isle?

Or if you want plain old lorem ipsum . . .
Here’s a traditional generator.