#hashtag beats ‘YOLO’ and ‘fiscal cliff’ to become 2012 Word of the Year

From politics to pop culture, ‘hashtags have created instant social trends,’ American Dialect Society says of its selection

And the Word of the Year, as chosen by the American Dialect Society is … “hashtag.” Category nominees included YOLO (You Only Live Once), fiscal cliff, Gangnam style, marriage equality and 47 per cent.

“This was the year when the hashtag became a ubiquitous phenomenon in online talk,” explained association member Ben Zimmer, also the language columnist at the Boston Globe. “In the Twittersphere and elsewhere, hashtags have created instant social trends, spreading bite-sized viral messages on topics ranging from politics to pop culture.”

Here, from the ADS website, is a list of other categories in contention, complete with winners and definitions:

MOST USEFUL

Winner:

-(po)calypse, -(ma)geddon: Hyperbolic combining forms for various catastrophes

Contenders:

YOLO: Acronym for “You Only Live Once,” often used sarcastically or self-deprecatingly

hate-watching: Continuing to follow a television show despite having an aversion to it

beardruff: Dandruff from one’s beard

MOST CREATIVE

Winner:

gate lice: Airline passengers who crowd around a gate waiting to board

Contenders:

mansplaining: A man’s condescending explanation to a female audience

alpacalypse: The Mayan apocalypse predicted for Dec. 21, 2012 (alpaca + -lypse)

dancelexia: Inability to pull off dance moves (such as misspelling “YMCA”) 36

MOST UNNECESSARY

Winner:

legitimate rape: Type of rape that Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin claimed rarely results in pregnancy

Contenders:

Frankenstorm: Term for Hurricane Sandy’s hybrid storm system (after Frankenstein’s monster)

HD: Abbreviation for “high-definition,” used for things that could not be high-definition

feels: Slangy shortening of “feelings”

MOST OUTRAGEOUS

Winner:

legitimate rape: Type of rape that Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin claimed rarely results in pregnancy

Contenders:

Dunlop effect: When one’s stomach protrudes over ill-fitting pants (“belly done lop over the belt”)

slut-shaming: Attacking a woman for socially stigmatized sexual activity

butt-chugging: An alcohol enema, used in college fraternity hazing rituals

MOST EUPHEMISTIC

Winner:

self-deportation: Policy of encouraging illegal immigrants to return voluntarily to their home countries

Contenders:

disruptive: Destroying existing business models 

Gray Thursday: Name given to Thanksgiving as a shopping day before Black Friday

ratchet: Slang term originally referring to “urban divas” now used to mean “ghetto”  

evolution: Change of opinion

MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED

Winner:

marriage equality: Legal recognition of same-sex marriage

Contenders:

fiscal cliff: Threat of spending cuts and tax increases looming over end-of-year budget negotiations

superstorm: An unusually large and destructive storm, such as Hurricane Sandy

MOOC: Acronym for “massive open online course”

big data: Large collections of digital information used for revealing behavioral insights

LEAST LIKELY TO SUCCEED

Winners:

phablet: Mid-sized electronic device between a smartphone and a tablet

YOLO: Acronym for “You Only Live Once,” often used sarcastically or self-deprecatingly

Contenders:

Cray-cray: slangy shortening and reduplication of “crazy”

Gangnam style: the trendy style of Seoul’s Gangnam district, as used in the Korean pop song of the same name

Windows Metro: name originally used for the Windows 8 operating system

meggings: a blend for “male leggings”

ELECTION WORDS (new category)

Winner:

binders (full of women): Term used by Romney in the second presidential debate to describe the resumes of female job candidates that he consulted as governor of Massachusetts

Contenders:

47 percent: Portion of the population that does not pay federal income tax

Etch-a-Sketch: Metaphor of reinvention used by Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom

Eastwooding: Photo fad inspired by Clint Eastwood’s unscripted speech at the RNC

Romney/Obama: Names of candidates used for blends (Obamaloney, Obamageddon, Romnesia, Romney Hood)

malarkey: Nonsense, empty talk (as used by Biden in the vice-presidential debate)

RELATED STORY

Click here to read about the Oxford 2012 Word of the Year. 

 




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