I'm about a week late with this news: Merriam-Webster's word of the year for 2008 is bailout.
Unlike most of the other WOTY contests, Merriam-Webster's is determined statistically: the winner is the word that "received the highest intensity of lookups on Merriam-Webster Online over the shortest period of time." So it's not exactly the most popular word of the year; it's the word least understood by the greatest number of Americans.
"There's something about the national psyche right now that is looking up words that seem to suggest fear and anxiety," M-W president and publisher John Morse told the Boston Globe, choosing his own words a tad haphazardly.
I was afraid I had, in fact, stumbled onto the list of words that we never wanted to hear again, as other candidates for the nod were rogue (as in “Sarah Palin’s going rogue”), bipartisan, vet, socialism, and my favorite, maverick (as in “is there really such a thing as a ‘team of mavericks'?”).
And you still have time to submit your WOTY nominations to the American Dialect Society: firstname.lastname@example.org. Winners will be announced January 9, 2009, during the society's annual meeting in San Francisco. More information here.