Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Favorite "Hot" American Word

I just found out about an organization called the "American Dialect Society" that selects an English Word of the Year
every year. According to its website: "The words or phrases do not have to be brand new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year." Those selecting the word of the year include linguists, grammarians, professors, writers and editors.

The most recent Word of the Year (WOTY) is "Occupy." According to Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, “It’s a very old word, but over the course of just a few months it took on another life and moved in new and unexpected directions, thanks to a national and global movement.” Yes, that would be the Occupy Wall Street movement, which went from occupying Wall Street to occupying cities and town around the entire USA and onto the rest of the world. In this case, the fourth definition of occupy given by is the most fitting: to take possession and control of (a place), as by military invasion. Maybe with the Occupy movement, this meaning of the word will move up a notch or two!

Lots of other great words were under consideration for the Word of the Year. Here are three of my favorites (and I encourage you to try these out):

1) humblebrag - expression of false humility, often by celebrities on Twitter (Note: "Humble" means when somebody is modest and "brag" is when you say great things about yourself -- put them together and you have false modesty). Here's a great humblebrag example I found on "I can't believe I sounded like such a idiot on TV last night"

2) FOMO - acronym for “Fear of Missing Out,” - as in, you might miss out on a great party if you decide to skip it. A very nice expression for the mobile phone age because it's short and easy to type and expresses just that feeling you have sometimes when you don't really feel like doing something, but you worry that you will miss something good if you don't do it.

3) artisan, artisanal - term used to describe gourmet food and other products. The folks at American Dialect Society call it a "faux-fancy" term, which I like. It's the kind of adjective you can stick in front of a loaf of bread at a Farmer's Market and then double the price. Or try it out in front of "pizza" as Domino's Pizza is doing for their new fancy "Artisan Pizza" which sells at a premium to its standard pizza. I have also run into "artisanal cheese" recently. It was really expensive, apparently because somebody lovingly made it by hand, in small batches. I think I saw small specks of mold on it too, but maybe that was supposed to add to its charm and "artisanal" quality!

"Occupy" was the Word of the Year in 2011. Of course, there is going to be another WOTY in 2012. We can only guess now at what English word or expression might rise to the top of the pile and occupy next year's place of honor!

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