Words of scant wisdom for 2012
Share with others:
As we box up the detritus of 2012 to be deposited in the attic (London Olympics) or at the curb (binders full of women), let's take a look back at the year's crop of words.
Merriam-Webster's most looked up word of the year was actually the conjoined twins "capitalism" and "socialism." The 2012 campaign drove many of us, particularly in the swing states, to drink; it also drove many of us to our dictionaries to counteract the promiscuous use of these words by people who often didn't have any idea what they actually mean.
The rest of the top 10 included "malarkey" (thanks, Biden), "meme" (thanks, Internet), "touché" (because some reality-TV idiot misused it), "professionalism" (yes, we need to look that up) and "schadenfreude" (danke, creepy Germans).
Dictionary.com gave us "tergiversate" for 2011, which was used or looked up by no one, so for 2012 they chose "bluster." Their reasoning is that we got gales of that, from our politicians, pundits and weather systems, so it's damp with 2012 zeitgeist.
The American Dialect Society went with "hashtag" as its 2012 word of the year. I suspect that we're increasingly going to find that words of the year aren't even words anymore; it's going to be "#" or "@" or, for baseball or steroid fans, "• ."
The ADS chose from a rich field of new or newly hot words including "superstorm," which itself was anointed by CNN over competing terms "Frankenstorm" (National Weather Service) and "snor'eastercane" (Wall Street Journal). Why? Because when weather kills people, you can't give it a name that sounds like a lovable cartoon snowman.
Many of the signature words and phrases of 2012 are ones Lake Superior State University would like to purge for 2013 - you can always count on LSSU to round up the words you're most tired of for a fantasy firing squad.
Topping that list is, all together now, "fiscal cliff." The Boston Globe points out that "fiscal cliff" has roots going back to a flowery 19th-century "fiscal precipice." Really.
At first, I welcomed "fiscal cliff" talk as a relief from the monotonous "tough economic times," but it proved as invasive as kudzu. As the deadline approached, I even heard references to the "Cliffmas season," the worst new holiday since Boss's Day.
"Kick the can down the road" was a chorus as hard to avoid in 2012 as "Here's my number - call me maybe."
The alternative to kicking someone's can down the road is to "double down," which LSSU would like to deport back to Vegas. Meanwhile, "job creators" were "trending," often ironically.
Our love of all things extreme gave us not only a superstorm but "superfood." Apparently there are berries that will give you X-ray vision and allow you to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
That's an experience you'll want to add to your "bucket list," because, you know - and this is my choice for the most spectacularly vapid entry on LSSU's roster - YOLO.
My vote is already in for next year's list: "baked in," as in "the tax consequences for the fiscal cliff on job creators are baked into these figures." I want the next business journalist who uses this term to be rolled in flour and shut in an oven at 350. #YOLO.
The most refreshing new word of 2012 comes from Oxford Dictionaries UK (leave it to the Brits, still building the English language after all these years): "omnishambles." As Oxford Dictionaries explains, "Coined by the writers of the satirical television programme 'The Thick of It,' an omnishambles is a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, and is characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations."
See also "fiscal cliff."
First Published January 10, 2013 12:00 am