ADS 2011 Word of the Year

This year it’s occupy, a worthy, but unsurprising choice. You can read the press release here.

This year, instead of just regurgitating the press release, I’ll give my comments on the various nominees and winners. These are my idiosyncratic opinions.

Occupy. As I said a worthy, albeit obvious, choice. Had I been in Portland, it would have gotten my vote.

Other WOTY nominees: FOMO “fear of missing out”: Not a bad acronym, and it characterizes a social phenomenon. But I’d never heard of it before the ADS vote. (Not that that necessarily means anything; just because I haven’t heard of a word doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t popular.) 99%: A worthy contender, but too closely associated with occupy, which is the more characteristic term for the movement. Humblebrag: a great word, but I’m not sure it’s really caught on, although I hope it has. Job creator: sorry, this one just doesn’t cut it. If there were a category for “most propagandistic,” this would make the cut, although 99% would probably be a better choice in that category.

The four “most useful” nominees are good ones, humblebrag, occupy, FOMO, and tablet. A tough choice. Any of these would be worthy. Although the utility of occupy is somewhat limited as it identifies a particular political movement. I can see the other three still being used in a non-historical context a decade from now.

Mellencamp is the clear choice for “most creative.” I’m surprised the didn’t pop up in previous years. Kardash would be my choice for runner-up. I don’t see what’s so especially creative about bunga bunga. It’s just an odd term used by Berlusconi which others picked up on. Put a bird on it is a fun choice, but derivative from the SNL a TV comedy sketch. I’m not sure it qualifies as creative—the sketch does, but the linguistic usage does not.

Anything associated with Charlie Sheen qualifies as “most unnecessary,” so I have no issue with bi-winning. But planking would be my choice; I prefer populist words. I’ve never heard of amazeballs; it clearly didn’t achieve the popularity that the other two did. The Qwikster service may have been unnecessary, but the word isn’t. Trade names are by their nature necessary. Linguists should know better than to confuse the word with the thing it represents.

Most years the “most outrageous” category yields some really offensive terms, but these are tepid at best. Assholocracy isn’t outrageous, unless one considers asshole to be so; impolite, yes; outrageous, no. Deather: again, confusing the thing with the word. Plus, the underlying concept isn’t all that outrageous. The circumstances around Bin Laden’s death and burial at sea raise some reasonable questions. (Not that I’m one with the deathers. I firmly believe that Osama was indeed killed, but skepticism of government announcements isn’t unreasonable.) Botoxionist? Not only have I not heard of it, but I don’t see anything at all outrageous about the word. And since it only got one vote, it seems I’m in the mainstream on this one.

Job creator for “most euphemistic” is a good choice and would have had my vote. Although I would have made regime alteration the runner up, not artisan/artisanal, which just barely qualifies as a euphemism. Sugar-coated Satan sandwich is a nice one, but appears to be a one-off usage.

Cloud and Arab Spring are both good choices for “most likely to succeed.” I’d have voted for cloud, as Arab Spring is likely to only be used historically in a few years. Tiger Mother is already on its way out, so I’m not sure what its doing in this category.

Brony and Tebowing are two good choices for “least likely to succeed.” (My apologies to my friends who are “My Little Pony” fans. This isn’t a judgment of you, just my assessment of the word’s long-term viability.) 9-9-9 has already failed, so I’m not sure it’s fair to include that one.

Occupy words” was a good choice for a special category. (In most years the ADS will create a special category to recognize words associated with a particular trend.) The Occupy movement has been especially linguistically inventive, and it’s nice to see these words on the list.

[Discuss this post.]

Powered by ExpressionEngine
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton