Word Routes

Exploring the pathways of our lexicon

Presenting the Nominees for 2015 Word of the Year

Greetings from Washington, D.C., where the American Dialect Society is holding its annual conference. On Thursday, in my capacity as chair of the society's New Words Committee, I presided over the nominating session for various categories in our Word of the Year selection. 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.

MOST USEFUL
mic drop : definitive end to a discussion after making an impressive point
microaggression : subtle form of racism or bias
shade : insult, criticism or disrespect, shown in a subtle or clever manner
they : gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, as a non-binary identifier
zero f***s given, ZFG : indication of supreme indifference

MOST CREATIVE
adult : (verb) behave like a grownup
ammosexual : firearm enthusiast
squad : one’s posse or close circle of friends
yass, yaass, yaaass, etc.: expression of excitement, approval or strong agreement

MOST UNNECESSARY
dadbod : flabby physique of a typical dad
manbun : man’s hairstyle pulled up in a bun
or nah : question tag expressing that something may not occur
trigger warning : alert for potentially distressing material

MOST OUTRAGEOUS
fish gape : posed expression with cheeks sucked in and lips slightly apart
f***boy, f***boi: derogatory term for a man who behaves objectionably or promiscuously
schlong : (verb) defeat soundly
sharewashing : deceptive marketing by companies treating services as “sharing”

MOST EUPHEMISTIC
af, asf: intensifier after an adjective (“as f***”)
lit : amazing, exciting or fun
Netflix and chill : sexual come-on masked as a suggestion to watch Netflix and relax
swipe right/left : accept or reject (based on gestures used on Tinder dating app)

MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
CRISPR : gene-editing technology allowing biologists to alter and control DNA sequences
ghost : (verb) abruptly end a relationship by cutting off communication, in person or online
mom : admiring term of address for a woman seen by younger women as a mother figure
on fleek : excellent, impeccable, “on point”

LEAST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
Berniementum : momentum behind the candidacy of Bernie Sanders
hoverboard : self-balancing motorized skateboard
sitbit : device that rewards sedentary lifestyle (play on Fitbit fitness tracker)
Uber for X : pitch used by startups seeking to emulate Uber in different tech sectors

MOST NOTABLE HASHTAG (new category)
#JeSuisParis : expression of solidarity after the Paris terror attacks
#LoveWins : celebration of Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage
#SayHerName : call to bring attention to violence against women of color
#StayMadAbby : ridiculing plaintiff in Univ. of Texas affirmative action case
#StayWoke : exhortation to remain vigilant and informed (used by #BlackLivesMatter movement)

MOST NOTABLE EMOJI (new category)
😍: heart eyes (romantic, passionate)
😉: winking face (humorous, flirtatious)
💁: information desk person (sassy, sarcastic)
🍆: eggplant (sexual innuendo)
💯: 100 (“keep it 100,” “keep it real”)

WORD OF THE YEAR
Nominations to be made at final meeting.


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Ben Zimmer is language columnist for The Wall Street Journal and former language columnist for The Boston Globe and The New York Times Magazine. He has worked as editor for American dictionaries at Oxford University Press and as a consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary. In addition to his regular "Word Routes" column here, he contributes to the group weblog Language Log. He is also the chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society. Click here to read more articles by Ben Zimmer.

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Comments from our users:

Saturday January 9th 2016, 8:24 PM
Comment by: Nick B. (TX)
I'm having a difficult time understanding these choices. Is it just that anyone who writes anything on twitter is contributing the data that leads to words like these being picked? They all seem to be at a child's education level. Isn't that a bit dissonant with the typical audience on a website like this?

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