While we await the January announcement of the 2006 word of the year by the American Dialect Society--the language world's equivalent of the Academy Awards--we can amuse ourselves with the Golden Globes, so to speak. Global Language Monitor, which scans the linguasphere from its headquarters in San Diego and bureaus in Europe, India, New Jersey, New England, the Bay Area, and "the Middle Kingdom," has announced its top words and catchphrases for 2006. The lists are noteworthy for their international scope. In fact, #3 on the "Top Ten Words" list is a Japanese term, hiki komori, defined as the "one million young Japanese men who avoid intense societal pressures by withdrawing into their own rooms (and worlds), rarely venturing outside." Also making the list this year: "planemo" (a celestial body like Pluto that's been demoted from planetary status), "Londonistan" (a nickname for the increasingly Asian world capital), and "infonaut" (someone who "travels blithely along the infobahn"). That last one has to be an internationalism; I've certainly never heard it spoken among the English speakers of my acquaintance.
At the top of the list: "sustainable." Not terribly sexy, but according to GLM an important term because of its migration from strictly "green" (environmental) usage into the mainstream, to refer to populations, marriages, agricultures, and economies.
Scroll down to view the more playful lists. On the Top Ten Catchphrases list you'll find "KPC" (texting lingo for "keeping parents clueless"), "airline pulp" (a Chinglish term for food served aboard airplanes), and #-) (the emoticon for "wasted"). "Stay the course" takes top honors among 2006 catchphrases.
My favorite word list, though, is Top Ten Global Youth Speak, which is beginning to be dominated by Pacific Rim countries. I love "ya-ya papaya" (from Singapore, it means "a snooty person") and "stick ice" (Chinese slang for a popsicle). By the way, the pan-Asian term for "youth speak" tops this list: it's "Yoof Speak."
Keeping my fingers crossed that Global Language Monitor repeats its popular feature from last year, Top Ten Bushisms. Heckuva job, GLM.