Word Routes

Exploring the pathways of our lexicon

Presenting the Nominees for 2013 Word of the Year

At the American Dialect Society's annual conference in Minneapolis, we have nominated words in various categories in our Word of the Year selection. I presided over the nominating session on Thursday in my capacity as chair of the society's New Words Committee. 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.

because: introducing a noun or noun phrase (e.g., "because reasons," "because Internet")
selfie: a photo taken of oneself, typically with a smartphone and shared on social media
slash: used as a coordinating conjunction to mean "or" or "and/or" (e.g., "come and visit slash stay")
strug(gle) bus: metaphor for a difficult situation, as in "I'm riding the struggle bus."

bitcoin: an anonymous, decentralized, digital, encrypted currency and payment system
catfish: to misrepresent oneself online, especially as part of a romantic deception
doge: an Internet meme with intentionally ungrammatical exclamations over an image of a dog (typically the Shiba Inu breed)
robo sapiens: a class of robots with human-like intelligence

cronut: a croissant-doughnut hybrid
sharknado: a tornado full of sharks, as featured in the Syfy Channel movie of that name
stack-ranking: a method of ranking employees on a primitive curve (used and abandoned by Microsoft)

fatberg: large deposit of fat, grease, and solid sewage found in London sewers
revenge porn: vindictive posting of sexually explicit pictures of someone without consent
s(c)hmeat: (blend of sheet + meat): meat product grown in a lab
thigh gap: a space between the thighs, taken by some as a sign of attractivness (also box gap)
underbutt: the underside of buttocks, made visible by certain shorts or underwear

demised: laid off from employment (used by the bank HSBC)
least untruthful: involving the smallest necessary lie (used by intelligence director James Clapper)
slimdown: reinterpretation of "shutdown" used on Fox News site

binge-watch: to consume vast quantities of visual entertainment in one sitting
drone: (trans. verb) to target with a drone, typically in a lethal drone strike
glasshole: a person made oblivious by wearing Google Glass, a head-mounted computer
Obamacare: term for the Affordable Care Act that has moved from pejorative to matter-of-fact shorthand

birthmas: a simultaneous celebration of a birthday and Christmas
Harlem Shake: a video meme featuring comic, convulsive dancing accompanied by excerpt of the song "Harlem Shake" by the DJ Baauer
Thanksgivukkah: confluence of Thanksgiving and the first night of Hanukkah that will not be repeated for another 70,000 years

MOST PRODUCTIVE (new category)
-coin: (from bitcoin) type of cryptocurrency (peercoin, namecoin, dogecoin, etc.)
-(el)fie: (from selfie) type of self-portrait (drelfie "drunk selfie," twofie "selfie with two people")
-shaming: (from slut-shaming) type of public humiliation (fat-shaming, pet-shaming)
-splaining: (from mansplaining)
-spo: (from thinspo) type of photo or video montage intended to inspire viewers to lose weight or stay fit (fitspo, sportspo)

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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