Saturday, December 08, 2012

Word of the Year Lists

Word of the Year lists begin to sprout this time of year. Many of them are banal, the product of trend-focused minds or curmudgeonly prejudices. One of them that is actually interesting is Merriam-Webster’s list. Rather than being based on ephemeral categories such as new words or quirky words or words detested by curmudgeons, M-W’s list records the top ten words actually looked up on their web site in any given year. That is useful information. You’ll find this year’s list at

The other list that I find interesting is the one posted by the American Dialect Society after a membership vote at its annual January conference. I find it useful because it comes from professional wordsmiths. In addition to overall word of the year, ADS has many subcategories, including most useful, most creative, most unnecessary, most outrageous, most euphemistic, most likely to succeed, and least likely to succeed.

Some of the words submitted to the nominating list so far include vulture capitalist, the combining form crypto- (as in cryptomuslim, cryptocapitalist, cryptoliberal), Rick Perry moment, twitterverse, spaghetti model, and my personal favorite, butt-chugging (an alcohol enema).

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Nook edition
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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


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