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.

A (snarky) Word Of The Year roundup

There is a narrow spectrum of occasions that really get word nerds excited. And one of them is the year-end lists of Words Of The Year (or WOTY as we like to call it, while we push the brims of our glasses up our collective noses).

What do 2011’s Words Of The Year say about this trip around the sun? Basically, it sucked. Between social unrest and the global economy tanking, I’m surprised anyone was able to poke themselves out of the doom and gloom to think about words. But somehow the lexicographical powers that be did, and the resulting lists reveal just what sourpusses we have been.

Here are 2011’s Words Of The Year. Enjoy (or not, as that would be more fitting).

eurozone: With the debt crisis spreading across Europe this year, it’s not surprising that Financial News chose this word as its WOTY. The article cites that media database Factiva recorded the word appeared almost three times more in 2011 than in 2010.

Read more at: http://www.efinancialnews.com/story/2011-12-23/words-of-the-year-eurozone-dominates-headlines

occupy: I thought occupy would surely top nearly every WOTY list. I was wrong (and it’s not the first time). Thankfully, The Global Language Monitor thought it worthy of topping their list. Though it’s by no means a new word (Occupy has been in use since the mid-fourteenth century.), the Occupy Wall Street movement breathed new life into it. All of a sudden, people were occupying everything, from cities across the globe to this guy, who asked his girlfriend to “occupy his life”:


Read more at: http://www.languagemonitor.com/global-english/top-words-of-2011/

pragmatic: This is Merriam-Webster’s winner for WOTY. It means “practical as opposed to idealistic.” The dictionary writers say that pragmatic had an “unprecedented number” of searches on their site. But whether that means this is a good choice or that people simply don’t have a good vocabulary is unclear. Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, has a brighter view of humanity. He says, “It’s a word that resonates with society as a whole; something people want to understand fully.”

Read more at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/info/2011words.htm

squeezed middle: This is a term mostly used in Britain. And, since I’m not British, here’s a quote from the Oxford Dictionaries’ post about the word to explain it: “Interestingly, ‘squeezed middle,’ Ed Miliband’s term for those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens whilst having the least with which to relieve it, operates slightly differently. It is a label that those affected are opting into rather than having directed against them, and perhaps therein lies its strength. The speed with which it has taken root, and the likelihood of its endurance while anxieties deepen, made it a good candidate for Word of the Year.”

Read more at: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2011/11/squeezed-middle/

tergiversate: Haven’t heard of this one? Yeah, me either. But it was Dictionary.com’s selection for this year. Pronounced “ter-JIV-er-sate,” it means “to change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to subject, etc.” Anyone paying attention to Republican primary frontrunners will quickly realize why this was Dictionary.com’s choice. The site also explains that “the stock market, politicians, and even public opinion polls have tergiversated all year long.”

Read more at: http://hotword.dictionary.com/tergiversate/

Year in slang
Luckily, in the pauses between our crying jags, we did come up with some interesting slang words. Here are the ones that have met end-of-the-year fanfare. (Thanks to the fine fun folks at Urban Dictionary for the definitions and examples.)

bunga bunga: an orgy; the term was popularized by the media after Silvio Berlusconi, [former] Prime Minister of Italy, was accused of having sex with an underage girl at one of said parties.

Silvio Berlusconi will perform some statutory rape at tonight’s bunga bunga party!

humblebrag: Subtly letting others now about how fantastic your life is while undercutting it with a bit of self-effacing humor or “woe is me” gloss.

Uggggh just ate about fifteen piece of chocolate gotta learn to control myself when flying first class or they’ll cancel my modelling contract LOL :p

Fracking: A new way of extracting oil from shale deposits via hydraulic fracturing. Unfortunately whoever came up with the name never saw Battlestar Galactica.

Have you heard about the fracking they’re doing for oil? I don’t think prices are high enough for me to start fracking people for it.

[Note: Frack is the inventive workaround the writers of the supremely awesome sci-fi show, Battlestar Galactica, (the remake, not the original) used to mean fuck.]

planking: The art of planking is to lay horizontally across any object or the ground with their arms by their sides, aiming to occur in daring situations or a brotherly display of core-strength.

Look at that madman planking that parking meter!

In case you haven’t witnessed this craze personally, here’s a video demonstration:


Tebowing: To get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.

I was in the middle of Times Square and I saw a girl Tebowing in the street. She almost got squashed.

[This slang term is named after the supremely annoying Denver Bronco’s quarterback, Tim Tebow. Of course, the internets spawned this amazing website to honor this practice.]

And how could we forget . . .