As in 2009, words related to the economy and other disasters occupy many of the spaces on my list of words that dominated the chatter in 2010.
I followed the American Dialect Society’s criteria for selection:
- new or newly popular in 2010
- widely or prominently used in 2010
- indicative or reflective of the popular discourse.
In alphabetical order:
Cannabiz: The business of buying and selling marijuana products and services, increasingly in the news as the US and other countries debate decriminalization or legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational use. From cannabis and business; sometimes spelled CannaBiz. A CBC documentary titled CannaBiz aired on Canadian television in December 2009 and January 2010; a US book titled Cannabiz: The Explosive Rise of the Medical Marijuana Industry was published in October.
Cat food commission: A disparaging term for the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, created by President Obama in early 2010 to identify “…policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run.” Also spelled catfood commission. Cat food commission began appearing in progressive news outlets such as The Hill and FireDogLake in early 2009 as a protest against potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare that would reduce poor people and the elderly to “eating cat food.” FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher popularized it in 2010 with numerous blog posts and a petition, “Can the Catfood Commission.” (This cat food is not to be confused with the dog food in eating your own dog food, or dogfooding, a term that originated with computer programmers.)
Hashtag: The marker—word, acronym, phrase, or other string of characters—preceded by a hash mark (#) that allows easy subject searches on Twitter (e.g., #glee or #election2010). The hash mark goes by many other names, including octothorpe. In June, New Yorker contributor and recent Twitter convert Susan Orlean introduced hashtag to the general public; in December the octothorpe itself was hailed as “the sign of our times” in the Guardian (UK) and called “one of the great comeback stories in the history of competitive punctuation” in the Daily Post (Canada). Early December saw the launch of Hashable, a “social introduction service” that uses hashtags such as #tight, #connected, and #acquainted to measure the strength of relationships. Read my post about the octothorpe.
Haul video: A short “look what I bought” video, often posted on YouTube, in which a young woman displays the fruits of a shopping expedition. The term showed up on Yahoo! Answers sometime in 2008 and finally hit the mainstream in 2010 with with articles in the New York Times and coverage on NPR. A blog, HaulVideos.net, aggregates some of the most popular haul videos. And nothing confirms a trend like a parody: HaulBlog (“Making the world more stupider, one video at a time”), was launched in March by three Southern California dudes who post videos about 3D glasses, razors, and Thanksgiving leftovers; a recurring feature is called “The Haul Monitor.”
Man up: The manly exhortation became a slogan for No Fear energy drink (warning: turn speakers down before clicking that link!) and the name of a global initiative to stop violence against women. Ben Zimmer devoted one of his New York Times On Language columns to it in September, and revisited it in October in a Visual Thesaurus column, where he observed that man up had become “one of the key catchphrases of American political discourse in advance of November’s midterm elections.”
99er: A person who has exhausted his or her 99 weeks of unemployment benefits (US). Read my post about 99er.
Pat-down: When the US Transportation Security Administration announced “enhanced” airport screenings in early November, some members of the traveling public objected to the full-body frisking known as the pat-down. (Less polite terms also surfaced, including gate rape.) In a Visual Thesaurus column, Ben Zimmer traced pat-down back to 1940s slang, but it definitely had maximal exposure in 2010.
QE2: Not the ocean liner but something equally big. It’s the acronym for the second round of quantitative easing launched by the Federal Reserve in November. “If the purpose of QE2 was the increase inflationary expectations, it has certainly succeeded,” wrote a Christian Science Monitor blogger on December 10.
Spill: The BP oil disaster that began April 10 and lasted more than five months was variously known as a blowout, a rupture, a blob, a leak, and a gusher (the Miami Herald’s preferred term), but spill was the word most news outlets used. In June, the WNYC program “The Takeaway” invited listeners to suggest the most appropriate word for the catastrophe. Listen to the segment. Other terms that bubbled up during the crisis included static kill, top kill, and spillcam, which was Global Language Monitor’s 2010 word of the year..
Vuvuzela: The soundtrack of the 2010 World Cup. Read my post about vuvuzela.
In other WOTY news, the German Youth Word of the Year is niveaulimbo, or “limbo level,” a reference to “the ever-declining of television programmes, and of conversation at parties.” I’m charmed by the second-place winner, Arschfax, “a visible label on one’s underwear that hangs outside one’s trousers.”
Swiss media professionals have selected expulsion (Ausschaffung in the original German) as the 2010 Swiss word of the year. It “became a buzzword in the run-up to a recent referendum that resulted in a yes vote to a proposal that any foreigner convicted of a serious crime should be booted out of the country automatically.”
Over at the Separated by a Common Language blog, Lynne the linguist is taking nominations for the year’s Best American-to-British Import and Best British-to-American Import. Last year’s winners were, respectively, staycation and go missing.
And here’s Urban Dictionary’s Word of the Year list, which allows readers to vote for their favorites. I’m fond of “That’s What BP Said,” but then again, I’m a big fan of The Office (US version).
Watch this space for additional Word of the Year lists as they’re published.
How much do I love octothorpe? It sounds like a Bond villain on Twitter.
Posted by: Jjochwat | December 14, 2010 at 10:19 AM
Wow, I had thought "hashtag" was several years old even in the vernacular. Guess not!
Posted by: mike | December 14, 2010 at 06:51 PM
Mike: "Hashtag" has been around for a while, but circumstances thrust it into prominence this year.
Posted by: Nancy Friedman | December 15, 2010 at 07:29 AM
Reach out. Please, Nancy, take it on. No one now says they'll contact me, they "reach out", or someone thanks *me* for reaching out. But my hands are at my side, dammit.
Posted by: Duchesse | December 15, 2010 at 02:18 PM