If you've been following the strange saga of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, then you've likely come across the term "catfishing" to describe the type of prank he fell victim to, in which a romantic interest turns out to be nothing more than a fabricated online identity. The term comes from the 2010 documentary "Catfish," but as I describe in my latest Boston Globe column, it's not the first time that a cinematic depiction has spawned a new verb.
The presidential inaugural address, that quadrennial high point in American political rhetoric, invariably attracts a huge amount of attention. President Obama's address yesterday was the subject of meticulous scrutiny: his word choice, his rhetorical devices, and even his grammar all were analyzed by countless language kibitzers.
Last week, the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year honors went to the Twitter-friendly hashtag
. But another techie term emerged in a less prestigious category, Least Likely to Succeed. Finishing in a virtual tie with the much-maligned acronym YOLO
, a blend of phone
coined for new devices that are not quite smartphones and not quite tablet computers.
The American Dialect Society has selected its Word of the Year for 2012, and the winner was a bit of a surprise. It wasn't fiscal cliff
, the ubiquitous term in the news from Capitol Hill. And it wasn't YOLO
, the youthful acronym for "You Only Live Once" that quickly rose (and just as quickly fell) this past year. No, the ultimate champion was that mainstay of the Twittersphere, hashtag
At the American Dialect Society's annual conference in Boston, we took a break from paper presentations to select nominations for the Word of the Year. As chair of the New Words Committee, I presided over the nominating session on Thursday. Winners will be selected from the different categories on Friday evening, culminating in the vote for the overall Word of the Year. Here's the list of nominees.
How often do you see an article about the search for the origin of a phrase on the homepage of the New York Times website? Just about... never. And yet the Times today has a story about the history of an expression that we've delved into a couple of times in this space: "the whole nine yards." Diligent word-sleuthing has turned up a rather unexpected predecessor: "the whole six
Americans are approaching an auspicious anniversary: it has been two hundred years since the first known appearance of "Uncle Sam" as an initialistic embodiment of the United States. The earliest example of "Uncle Sam" was found in the December 23, 1812 issue of the Bennington
. But another town not too far from Bennington — Troy, New York — has maintained that it is the true birthplace of Uncle Sam.