At its annual meeting in Baltimore last Friday, the American Dialect Society selected tweet (noun and verb) as its 2009 word of the year and google (verb) as its word of the decade 2000–2009.
Grant Barrett, chair of the society's New Words Committee, had this to say about the winners:
Both words are, in the end, products of the Information Age, where every person has the ability to satisfy curiosity and to broadcast to a select following, both via the Internet.
In a first for the society, whose vote is the longest-running anywhere and the only one not tied to a commercial interest, both of the winning names are also proprietary terms with trademark protection. Lower-case google ("to search the Internet") is a genericization of the corporate name Google. And Twitter, Inc., filed for trademark protection of Tweet in April 2009. (I wrote about it here.)
A bit of background from ADS about criteria for selection:
Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item”—not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year, in the manner of Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
Tweet beat out the suffix -er (as in birther, deather, and teabagger); fail (noun or interjection); H1N1 (the swine flu virus); public option (a controversial element of the health-insurance debate); and Dracula sneeze (covering one's mouth with the crook of one's elbow while sneezing, and resembling Count Dracula while so doing). The count had his revenge, however: Dracula sneeze was voted Most Creative Word of the Year. And fail won as Most Useful.
Other category winners:
- Most Outrageous: Death panel.
- Most Euphemistic: Hike the Appalachian Trail.
- Most Likely to Succeed: Twenty-ten (as opposed to "two thousand and ten").
- Least Likely to Succeed: Any nickname for the decade 2000-2009.
More information about the vote appears on the ADS website. Baltimorean John McIntyre, who blogs at You Don't Say, attended the voting session and filed a report. Also read Ben Zimmer's summary at Visual Thesaurus (and don't miss the video embedded at the end—a word nerd's delight).
In a separate session at the Baltimore meeting, the American Name Society selected Salish Sea as its name of the year. I haven't yet found an online press release, but an email from the society's Cleve Evans provided this background for the selection:
This name, created by marine biologist Bart Webber in 1988, was officially adopted as the collective name for the interior ocean waters of British Columbia and Washington state. The Salish Sea stretches from Olympia, WA to Desolation Sound in BC and includes Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the Strait of Georgia. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names approved the name on November 12, 2009, after it had previously been accepted by the Geographic Names board of Canada. Webber wanted a single name for this entire body of water because forms a connected marine ecosystem. “Salish” was chosen because most of the Native American nations who lived in the area spoke languages that were part of the Coast Salish family.
Salish Sea was also voted Place Name of the Year.
Other ANS names of the year, from the Evans email:
- Twitter was chosen as Trade Name of the Year. Although Twitter was launched in 2006, this was the year it was taken seriously as a global phenomenon. It played a major part in the protests in Iran after the disputed June election. "Twitter" was the year's fastest-rising Google search, and it made Google’s global list (at #4) for the first time ever.*
- Max was voted Fictional Name of the Year because of the child hero of the classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and the 2009 film based on it. The fact that many young parents were read the book as a child helps account for Max, Maxwell, and similar names being popular baby names today.
- Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III was voted Personal Name of the Year. The name of the pilot who safely landed an airliner on the Hudson River last January illustrates how a name some might find odd and even nerdish can gain a heroic image from current events.
- ANS members also voted to created a special Miscellaneous Name of the Year for H1N1, the name of the influenza virus that caused worldwide concern in 2009. The replacement of the term “swine flu” by this scientific clinical term was an unusual example of government pronouncements successfully changing a popular public term.
Read my report on the 2008 Name of the Year vote, which I attended.
* Twitter was my own submission for trade name of the year, and the citation above appears to be identical to my nominating statement.