Actors have Oscars. Writers have Pulitzers. Astronauts have the moon. Words have … end-of-the-year lists.
In terms of something to shoot for, a word can't aim much higher than inclusion on a year-end list of buzzworthy phrases. You've no doubt tripped over one or two of 2010's — the words we invented, repurposed, breathed new life into or otherwise paid lip service to over the past 12 months.
Here's a sampling.
• The New Oxford American Dictionary got a lot of attention when it named "refudiate" 2010's word of the year, calling it: "an unquestionable buzzword in 2010" after Sarah Palin used it in a Twitter posting. "From a strictly lexical interpretation of the different contexts in which Palin has used 'refudiate,' we have concluded that neither 'refute' nor 'repudiate' seems consistently precise, and that 'refudiate' more or less stands on its own, suggesting a general sense of 'reject,'" the editors wrote.
But that doesn't mean refudiate will now appear in their dictionary. The editors issue a separate list of words they deemed dictionary-worthy in 2010. Those include:
hashtag n. (on social networking websites such as Twitter) a hash or pound sign (#) used to identify a particular keyword or phrase in a posting.
unfriend v. [with obj.] informal remove (someone) from a list of friends or contacts on a social networking site: she broke up with her boyfriend, but she hasn't unfriended him.
staycation n. informal a vacation spent in one's home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.
• Urban Dictionary users chose as their word of the year "gate rape," referring to the Transportation Security Administration's airport screening procedures. Some runners-up? "Hit the slide," meaning "to quit one's job in a truly stunning fashion." (Inspired by Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who surrendered his post by cursing out an entire aircraft, grabbing a beer and deploying the emergency slide.) Also on the list was "protohype: the process of leaking a prototype device to generate buzz about a product you don't quite yet have ready for market to a friendly tech web site who will promote the gizmo well before it's ready to go."
• The American Dialect Society announces its word of the year in January at its annual conference, where a panel of linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, professors and other scholars considers the collected nominations before voting on a winner. The group's site offers a peek at some early nominations. (Nominate your own at americandialect.org.)
Ben Zimmer, New York Times "On Language" columnist, nominates more than two dozen, including "shellacking: the colorful term used by President Obama after the Democrats suffered heavy losses in the midterm elections"; "belieber: a fanatical devotee of the pop singer Justin Bieber"; and "thumbo: caused by errant texting." (Think typo for a new generation).
Corporate copywriter Nancy Friedman nominates, among others, "99er: a person who has exhausted his or her 99 weeks of unemployment benefits." On the list of Wayne Glowka, former head of the American Dialect Society new words committee: "Vuvu-stopper: ear plug used by soccer fans to block the noise of vuvuzelas blown at World Cup soccer matches."
Vuvuzelas, the valveless plastic trumpets Glowka refers to, showed up on numerous end-of-the-year lists. As did Wikileaks, Wikileaker, Wikileakable and any variation of "Wiki" and "leak" that the mind can conjure. Top kill was another frequent contender, referring to BP's attempt at plugging its runaway well. Blowout preventer also made an impressive showing.
Will we still be talking about refudiate and vuvuzelas a year from now? Hard to say, but consider that the American Dialect Society's 2009 word of the year was the still quite buzzworthy "tweet." In 2008, it was "bailout," made possible, of course, by 2007's winner, which was "subprime." Go one more year back though, and you realize how long a mere four years can seem.
The 2006 word of the year? "Plutoed": To pluto is to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet."
When was the last time that came up in conversation?Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times