The American Dialect Society has spoken: the 2008 Word of the Year is bailout .
If you hear an echo, you're not alone: Merriam-Webster also chose bailout as its word of the year. What made the ADS selection a bit of a surprise was that bailout was nominated at the last minute, after the formal nominations had already been recorded. (For the record, they were Barack Obama, change, lipstick on a pig, shovel-ready, and game-changer.)
I was delighted to attend the voting session at the San Francisco Hilton—my first American Dialect Society meeting. The room was packed, the mood was festive, and the tally itself was a revelation. Let's just say it was considerably more freewheeling than I'd expected.
While bailout may reflect the economic news of 2008, it's not an especially creative choice. As Grant Barrett, chair of the ADS's New Words Committee (and editor of the Double-Tongued Dictionary), put it:
When you vote for bailout, I guess you’re really voting for "hope" and "change," too. Though you’d think a room full of pointy-headed intellectuals could come up with something more exciting.
(Like, for instance, monumentous, which sprang into popularity to describe the Obama phenomenon. During 2008 monumentous was the single term most often used in searches that led to this blog. Just saying.)
In addition to the overall WOTY, the ADS also selects words of the year in several sub-categories. My favorite this year was the winner in the Most Creative category: recombobulation area, the section of the Milwaukee airport where passengers who have survived the security screening can put themselves back together.
And in the Most Useful category, shovel-ready, which Mr. Verb saw coming a month ago. Excellent trend-spotting, Mr. V!
In a separate vote, the American Name Society selected Barack Hussein Obama as its name of the year.
I attended several of the American Name Society meetings, including a very interesting presentation by Laurel Sutton of Catchword Branding on the use of green in branding. (Her prediction: blue will be the new green. I'm planning to write a post about green branding myself ... oh, sometime this quarter.) And I thoroughly enjoyed meeting several people I'd previously known only virtually, including Visual Thesaurus Executive Producer Ben Zimmer, Dictionary Evangelist Erin McKean, and the aforementioned Grant Barrett.
Photo from here.