I will not be attending the American Dialect Society's 2019 conference, which takes place next week in New York. This means I'll miss the highlight of the conference, which is the annual selection of the ADS Word of the Year. The nominating and voting meetings are raucous events that are hugely entertaining, even if you otherwise don't care one single fig for the rest of the ADS conference. (It's true; ask my wife.)
So this week for Friday words, instead of the normal, I'm going to list the words that I personally have been tracking for 2018. Since anyone can nominate a word of the year, I also offer these as nominations in case anyone wants to present them at the live session.
To reiterate the pretty generous ADS criteria for nominations for WOTY:
- doesn't have to be brand-new
- needs to have shown a rise in popularity in 2018
- can be a multiword phrase or compound
I'll mostly use the categories that ADS uses for their nominations, except that I have no particular hashtag to offer, and emoji? Not me. I have not actually picked winners here, for any category or overall. Feel free to vote for your favorite(s)!
Content warning: The list contains offensive terms and terms with possible political bias.
Political word of the year
There have been a lot of interesting words from politics this year. Here are the ones I found that I thought bubbled to the top of the 2018 heap.
The process by which a legal resident of the US can sponsor the immigration of close family members. This is a Frank Luntz-worthy coinage that distills a complex issue into a sound bite to stir emotion.
A term allegedly used by Trump to describe countries from which the US should not be accepting immigrants.
A question asked under oath whose purpose is to catch a witness in a lie.
An actor who portrays a victim of a crime or disaster. Used by conspiracy theorists to claim that certain disasters (such as school shootings) were staged.
According to right-leaning people, a cabal of bureaucrats working to undermine the current administration.
A rating for political lies that have been repeated 20 or more times (multiple instances of 3- or 4-Pinocchio statements).
The anticipated (and fulfilled) lopsided electoral victory of Democratic candidates during the 2018 midterm election.
Digital word of the year
I actually have 2 lists here. One is for digital terms likely to be used in ordinary conxtexts. The second is for terms that I see a lot at work—that is, emergent in the field of cloud computing.
Denying someone an outlet, whether on social media or in public forums, for espousing their views.
To aggregate a thread of Twitter posts into a single long-form page, using the Thread Reader App.
The use of gestures alone to control devices.
A wireless device that accepts voice commands and plays responses.
And here's my list of more "inside baseball" digital terms for 2018:
A form of computing in which the computer system “learns” to perform tasks (such as identifying faces or predicting behavior) based not on prewritten algorithms, but instead based on analyzing a very large number of examples and deducing patterns.
An approach to software development that integrates development (programming) and IT operations in order to streamline delivery of features.
A computer design in which the processing for the system is decentralized by distributing some of it to the “edge,” such as to IoT devices.
A form of cloud computing in which the mechanics of allocating compute resources (etc.) is left to the cloud provider, leaving the developer free to just write application code.
Slang/informal word of the year
My categorization starts to break down a bit here; the assignment of categories is a bit arbitrary.
To harass someone by calling in a false report of a crime at the victim’s address in the hopes of having emergency services respond (for example, a SWAT team).
Someone who is “involuntarily celibate”; generally associated with a subculture of men who hold (sometimes extremely) misogynistic views.
Ineffective (“effect-less”). An old term that got a boost from Samantha Bee’s characterization of Ivanka Trump as a “feckless cunt.” (NB: the word “cunt” has a substantially milder connotation in the UK, especially Scotland, than it does in the US. For details, see the Strong Language blog.)
The cohort of people born between the Generation X and Millennial generations (late 1970s through early 1980s).
Most likely to succeed
The act of “donating” a birthday by asking well-wishers to support a charitable cause.
To restrict the visibility of a user’s social media posts without the user being aware of it, thus limiting the user’s reach without actually banning them.
A person who is skeptical of the weight that was reported on the president’s medical report released in January. Based on the term birther for those who were skeptical about Obama’s birthplace.
“Confidently lecturing someone about a complicated issue on the basis of having watched one Ted talk about it.” (@JamieJBartlett on Twitter)
Euphemism of the year
Officially, unscheduled time on the president’s calendar, but widely thought to refer to the time the president spends watching TV or tweeting.
tender age shelter
The cages in which children are kept after being separated from their parents at the US border.
The unnamed owner of a company that the lawyer Michael Cohen worked for for 10 years, according to a court filing for the charges against Cohen.
WTF word of the year
emotional support peacock
Narrowly, a bird that a United Airlines passenger attempted to bring onto a flight as a therapy animal. More broadly, the point at which emotional support [creature] jumped the shark. (Ana Navarro in a tweet: “I think I need an emotional support peacock.”)
A viral sound test that asked listeners whether they heard “yanny” or “laurel.” (Jason Kehe of Wired used the term generically to describe the low audio quality of modern TV: “yanny/laurel times a million.”)
This is so sad Alexa play [artist/song]
A meme that represents ironic sadness, based originally on an innocuous tweet that someone posted when the cat ate their dinner.
A normally unremarkable medical instrument that became a strange and unavoidable part of the narrative about the murder of the the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The full list
The lists above are culled from a fuller list of terms I was tracking. For completeness, I'll go ahead and list those here with minimal explanation, less the ones I've already listed.
Like this? Read all the Friday words.