The WOTY party has begun, and I’m arriving fashionably (or maybe just breathlessly) late. Back in early November, Allan Metcalf nominated basic for the honor; a couple of weeks later Dennis Baron, aka Dr. Grammar, anointed singular they and Oxford Dictionaries selected an emoji, “Face with Tears of Joy.” Merriam-Webster, which chooses its WOTY based on volume of online lookups, selected -ism. The spoofy Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum (named after “Emily’s third cousin, twice removed – at her request”) has been posting one WOTY candidate every day in December, along with runners-up. (I confess I’d never heard of Dick Poop, but I like it.) And over at the Visual Thesaurus (where I’m a contributing writer), Ben Zimmer has nominated a couple dozen notable words that surfaced this year in science, business, news, and pop culture.
not a peeve or a complaint about overuse or misuse.
Word of the year: Refugee
Most useful: Mx.
Most likely to succeed: Ghosting
Least likely to succeed: Left shark
Euphemism of the year: Netflix and chill
Most creative: Shipping
Most outrageous: Measles party, schlonged (tie – it was an outrageous year!)
Most unnecessary: Microaggression
Most productive: -shaming
Read on for the full WOTY list – 20 words in all – and brief definitions. Words previously featured on this blog are linked to the relevant posts. And follow the American Dialect Society for news of its WOTY vote on January 8.
Today is Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us made famous and beloved by “Seinfeld.” This year, a Florida man named Chad Stevens designed a rainbow-hued Festivus pole that he hopes to display –according to a story in Slate – “in Republican-dominated states—Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, Michigan—as a protest against what he views as their support for laws respecting an establishment of religion.” Three cheers for Chad!
The Festivus tradition closest to my own heart is, of course, the Airing of Grievances. This isthe seventh year of my public kvetchings about preventable errors committed in the name of commerce and journalism. Read ’em and weep.
Corinthian Colleges. The bankruptcy filing of Corinthian Colleges, in April, marked the largest shutdown of a for-profit college in U.S. history, and it called into question the practices of for-profit higher education generally. Sixteen thousand students were “displaced,” as official reports put it. (One hundred of the students petitioned the federal government to forgive their student debt.) Corinthian — an adjective meaning “of Corinth,” a city of fabled wealth in ancient Greece – has had many figurative meanings in English since the 16th century, including “elegantly or elaborately ornate” and, as a noun, “a luxury-loving person.” Corinthian columns are heavily decorated with acanthus leaves; in Christianity, Corinthians is the name of two chapters of the New Testament. (And currants derive their name from “raisins of Corinth.”) Corinthian leather was coined in 1974 by a copywriter at the advertising agency responsible for marketing Chrysler luxury vehicles; most of the leather came from a factory in much more prosaic Newark, New Jersey.
Birthmas: A birthday that falls on or near Christmas (sometimes expanded to the entire month of December). A portmanteau of birthday and Christmas, without the religious overtones of -mas (a shortening of mass, the eucharistic service).
Into the final weeks of 2015 with one final link roundup!
Lucy Kellaway,who writes about language and writing for the Financial Times,has created Guffipedia, “a repository for the worst jargon I’ve seen over the years.” All the devils are here: onboard more resource, flex-pon-sive, diverse hairdos, etc. ad nauseam. “The point of Guffipedia,” writes Kellaway, “is not just for you to admire the extent of my guff collection, but to help me curate it going forward, as they say in Guffish.” Good point of entry: the many Guffish euphemisms for you’re fired. (Hat tip: Molly Walker.)
The American Name Society is accepting nominations for Names of the Year, with the winners to be announced at the society’s annual meeting in Washington, DC, on January 8, 2015. Anyone can play; submit your nominations before January 5.
Here are my own nominations in the categories established by ANS – names “that best illustrate, through their creation and/or use during the past 12 months, important trends in the culture of the United States and Canada.” My top picks are *starred.