At its annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, last Friday, the American Dialect Society selected occupy (“verb, noun, and combining form referring to the Occupy protest movement”) as its word of the year for 2011.
Ben Zimmer, chair of the ADS’s New Words Committee and executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com, said about “occupy”: “It’s a very old word, but over the course of just a few months it took on another life and moved in new and unexpected directions, thanks to a national and global movement. The movement itself was powered by the word.”
“Occupy” prevailed over runners-up FOMO (fear of missing out), the 99%, humblebrag, and job creator. “Humblebrag”—an expression of false humility—won in the “Most Useful” category. “Job creator”—a member of the top 1 percent of money-makers—was selected euphemism of the year. I’m especially pleased to report that “assholocracy” was the overwhelming choice for most outrageous word of the year.
For more details about the vote, read the press release.
In a companion vote, the American Name Society selected Arab Spring as its name of the year for 2011. The society’s trade name of the year was Siri; place name of the year was Fukushima; Qaddafi (and alternate spellings) was personal name of the year; and Lisbeth Salander—the heroine of the Stieg Larsson trilogy and the films based on it—was chosen as fictional name of the year. Here's the press release (PDF).
Read linguist Geoffrey Pullum’s eyewitness report on the ADS vote. On occupy: “Rather disappointing, I thought: the Mitt Romney of the field of candidates. Just an ordinary and rather moderate verb, not a neologism. But its profile rose so much during the tent-city protests of 2011 that it seemed a true representative of the Zeitgeist. It was unstoppable.”
UPDATE: Ben Zimmer’s account of last Friday’s ADS vote is now on the Visual Thesaurus. Includes video!