“There seems to be no leading candidate for Word (or Phrase) of the Year,” writes Allan Metcalf, executive director of the American Dialect Society, in the Lingua Franca blog. That lack, he maintains, “will make discussion and voting more lively” at the ADS’s annual meeting in Portland next month. No question that the discussion will be lively—it always is—but I beg to differ about “no leading candidate.” It may not be as controversial as the 2013 selection, because, or as social-media-friendly as 2012’s hashtag, but it’s still the clear front-runner.
My submissions to the ADS vote, to be held January 9:
Word of the year: Ebola.
Most useful: Precariat.
Most likely to succeed: Budtender.
Least likely to succeed: Oxt weekend, proposed as a way to specify “not this coming weekend, but the weekend after.” Nice try, guys.
Euphemism of the year: Conscious uncoupling, actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s New Age-y term for “my divorce from Chris Martin.” Paltrow made the announcement in March on her website, Goop; later in the year, the term appeared in non-marital contexts, including headlines about a blight-removal project in Baltimore and the transformation of the data-storage industry.
Most outrageous: Fappening, a portmanteau of fap (slang for “masturbate”) and happening; used to describe the (male) response to a leak of more than 500 private photos of celebrities—mostly women, many nude—in late August and early September.
Most unnecessary: Platisher.
Most productive: -splain. A suffix meaning “to explain in a condescending manner.” A runner-up in last year’s “most productive” category whose time may finally have come. Seen this year in coinages such as bizsplain, whitesplain, parentsplain, Voxsplain, and deathsplain. Mark Peters described the trend in an October 2013 column for the Visual Thesaurus (“‘Mansplaining’ Spawns a New Suffix”); see also my 2010 post on mansplain.
Local (Bay Area) word of the year: Hellastorm, the name given to the heavy winds and torrential rains that caused flooding and power outages during the “Pineapple Express” storm of December 11 and 12.
In making my WOTY choices, I followed the American Dialect Society's criteria for selection:
- new or newly popular in 2014
- widely or prominently used in 2014
- indicative or reflective of the popular discourse.
Read on for my full WOTY list.