What if we held a contest and nobody won? (The 2012 word of the year.)

I chanced across a column recently on some prospective “words of the year” for 2012 — only one of many that I’ll read over the next several weeks. (You too?)

It’s not looking good for word of the year (WOTY). If the piece I read is any indication, there are few, if any, new or creatively used words from 2012 generating much excitement.

For the record, 2011 also didn’t give us any memorable new words. At least as far as I’m aware, none of the words on the ‘top 10’ lists I reviewed have made it into common use (not counting the few that were already common).

Some of the suggested candidates for 2012 so far include both superstorm and Frankenstorm (their capitalization, not mine); as well as red line, fiscal cliff, building that and 47 percent (all from politics). Eastwooding might be the most amusing: it’s the act of arguing with an empty chair (made famous for 15 minutes after Clint Eastwood’s performance in August). But it doesn’t seem to have any serious traction.

Mansplaining, hate-watching, and YOLO are on the watch list, as well as double-down, pink slime, and ganjapreneur. I can’t say that I’m excited about any of them. (For the time being, I’ll refrain from providing definitions: they’re readily available elsewhere. I plan to compose a full-length post on the 2012 WOTY candidates and winners in the near future.).

As I’ve stated before, I don’t have a dog in this fight: I’m usually more interested in older words that rise to new prominence, and I don’t systematically collect new words nearly as well as I could. “Adorkable” (or “dorkable“) might be the best ‘new’ word I learned this year, but that’s been around for at least half a decade. Not that WOTY candidates need to be novel: selection is about prominence in the previous year, not whether or not they’re actually “new.” “Techsessories” would make my personal list, too (again, it’s been around for a couple years). Heck, I’d probably even put exfiltrate on the list (I’m fair: just because I dislike a word, that doesn’t mean I won’t recognize when it rises to prominence).

With such a lackluster slate of candidates, maybe the interested parties should resolve to not declare a winner for 2012, and hope that 2013 gives us better. The WOTY lists are all mere publicity stunts to begin with, so it’s not as if any harm could be done.

The first reaction by many might be that such a move would be a kind of lexical heresy. However, I’d wager that it would have the effect of sparking a lot of creative new vocabulary next year, as people of all stripes compete to make sure that 2013 doesn’t go WOTY-less.

In fact, wouldn’t it work better if the WOTY process functioned closer to the balloting system used by the Baseball Hall of Fame? Instead of declaring the candidate with the most votes the ‘winner,’ in order to earn WOTY status a candidate would need to exceed a certain threshold percentage of all votes, and lead all other candidates (…are you listening, American Dialect Society?). Now that would be an interesting ballot process to observe.

= = = = =

Since it’s the holiday season and I haven’t yet written any holiday-specific posts this month (and won’t have time to until after New Year’s Day), please take a look at two fun (and very popular) posts from this time last year: yule and murgatroyd.

Enjoy your celebrations!


About thebettereditor

Chris holds a BA degree in history from the University of Virginia and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Degree in writing from the University of Southern Maine (Stonecoast). He has worked extensively with professional and semi-professional writers and enthusiastic amateurs for about 20 years. He has several years experience in scientific publishing, but has also worked in information technology, insurance, health care, and education (he taught writing at the university level for a number of years). Since 2011, he's also specialized in helping small business meet their writing and editing needs on a budget.
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One Response to What if we held a contest and nobody won? (The 2012 word of the year.)

  1. Pingback: 2012 WOTY Roundup! | thebettereditor

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