Random Asides

Best Word of ’08 Chosen

Okay, this post really has nothing to do with skepticism, but as writers and readers, it’s simply a bit of fun for us to start our Saturday.

On January 9, the American Dialect Society held its annual convention where its main order of business was to choose the top words and phrases of 2008. ADS members gathered to debate which American English vocabulary items — not just words but phrases — were not only newly prominent, but also notable and impactful in the past year. The staff at the Airport Motor Lodge (or where ever they actually met) kept them supplied with coffee and danish as they the discussed the merits of contenders like “Palinesque,” “skadoosh,” “bromance” and “thought showers” before voting for an overall winner.

By the way, I’m still digging one of 2007’s contenders, which was “Googleganger”. According to the society, “Googleganger” is a play on “doppelganger”. A Googleganger is a person with your name who shows up when you Google yourself.

Go try it, and see if you have any cool Googlegangers.

I actually have a couple of Googlegangers, but the most prominent seems to be a fairly well-received photographer. Heck, this blog is listed fourth when I Google “Sam Ogden”. Maybe I’m gaining on my Googleganger. Perhaps one day I’ll be at the top of the Sam Ogden list and the other Sam Ogdens will look up to me as the Sam Ogden Googleganger Extraordinaire.

Hey, one can dream.

But the words for 2008 are just as fun, as you’ll see after the fold.

So, from the American Dialect Society website, here are the words chosen as 2008’s best words or phrases. There are several different categories, and I’ve included the runners up the society considered in addition to the winners.

WORD OF THE YEAR WINNER: bailout, the rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry.

Other nominees for word of the year:

Barack Obama: Both names as combining forms in a large number of new words. A combining form is a word or part of a word that can be used as the root or basis of other words.

lipstick on a pig: An adornment of something that can’t be made pretty.

change: Not so much a buzzword as political wallpaper, background noise, and ambient energy rolled into one. The idea of discarding old ideas and methods seemed to underlie everything said by national political candidates.

shovel-ready: Used to describe infrastructure projects that can be started quickly when funds become available.

game-changer: In business and politics, something that alters the nature of a marketplace, relationship, or campaign. From sports ‘something that changes a match or contest.’

—MOST USEFUL—

WINNER: Barack Obama: Both names as combining forms.

text(ing), in driving while texting (DWT), the sending of text messages while conducting and automobile, and textwalker, a person who texts while walking.

bailout: The rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry.

Palinesque: Pertaining to a person who has extended themselves beyond their expertise, thereby bringing ridicule upon a serious matter.

—MOST CREATIVE—

WINNER: recombobulation area: An area at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee in which passengers that have just passed through security screening can get their clothes and belongings back in order.

long photo: A video of 90 seconds or less. Used by the photo-sharing web site Flickr.

skadoosh: A nonsense interjection popularized by Jack Black in the movie Kung Fu Panda.

rofflenui: A blended New Zealand English-Maori word that means “rolling on the floor laughing a lot.”

—MOST UNNECESSARY—

WINNER: moofing: From “mobile out of office,” meaning working on the go with a laptop and cell phone. Created by a PR firm.

First Dude: The husband of a governor or president.

bromance: A very close relationship between two heterosexual men.

—MOST OUTRAGEOUS—

WINNER: terrorist fist jab: A knuckle-to-knuckle fist bump, or “dap,” traditionally performed between two black people as a sign of friendship, celebration or agreement. It was called the “terrorist fist jab” by the newscaster E. D. Hill, formerly of Fox News.

body-snarking: Posting pictures and commenting negatively on the bodies of the people in them.

fish pedicure: A cosmetic procedure in which fish eat the dead skin off the feet.

baby mama: From a man’s point of view, a woman to whom he is not married and who is the mother of his child.

—MOST EUPHEMISTIC—

WINNER: scooping technician: A person whose job it is to pick up dog poop.

age-doping: The falsification of records to show that an athlete meets participation requirements for a sporting event.

thought showers: Coined by a British city council because the synonym “brainstorming” was said to be offensive to epileptics.

—MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED—

WINNER: shovel-ready: Used to describe infrastructure projects that can be started quickly when funds become available.

Tw-, tweet-, twitt-Combining forms all connoting a relationship to Twitter, a free nano-blogging service.

[name] the [job]: Joe the Plumber, etc.

Phelpsian: Excellent in the fashion of swimmer Michael Phelps, who won eight medals and set seven world records in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

-licious: A suffix which connotes desirability or attractiveness of the thing whose name it is combined with.

—LEAST LIKELY TO SUCCEED—

WINNER: PUMA: An acronym for Party Unity My Ass, used by Democrats who were disaffected after Hillary Clinton failed to secure a sufficient number of delegates. It was later said to stand for Party Unity Means Action.

nuke the fridge: To ruin a movie franchise through the arrogance of a successful producer or director.

-cation: Suffix connotating “vacation” in blends like mancation, staycation, hurrication, evacucation.

—NEW CATEGORY: ELECTION-RELATED WORDS—

WINNER: maverick: A person who is beholden to no one. Widely used by the Republican Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates, John McCain and Sarah Palin. Also in the adjectival form mavericky, used by Tina Fey portraying Palin on Saturday Night Live.

lipstick on a pig: An adornment of something that can’t be made pretty.

hopey-changey: Derisive epithet incorporating Obama’s two main buzzwords (also dopey hopey changey).

hockey mom: A mother who spends a great deal of time and money aggressively abetting her children’s interest in the sport of hockey.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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27 Comments

  1. Phelpsian: Excellent in the fashion of swimmer Michael Phelps, who won eight medals and set seven world records in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

    Not likely to succeed while pastor Fred is around.

    thought showers: Coined by a British city council because the synonym “brainstorming” was said to be offensive to epileptics.

    I’d have thought it was because “brainstorming” was offensive to people with no brains. You know, like the ones who would have these ideas.

  2. Gahh, I don’t get why ‘brainstorming’ would be offensive either, apparently to people with epilepsy… is that right?

    I am my own googleganger! It’s sad, if I google myself my facebook and work-related websites come up. I was quite impressed!

  3. Bah Humbug. Half of these are either long-standing phrases that got buzzworded (Webster’s dates “maverick” to the rancher Samuel Maverick, 1803-1870), and TIME dates “lipstick on a pig” to at least 1985). Others are completely routine coinages (texting, tweet-/twit-).

    “Moofing” is a bit twee, but I wouldn’t put it in “most unnecessary”! It could be a useful term for folks who are out of the office, but still in contact. (i.e. “Sorry, I can’t get at those records right now, I’m moofing.”)

    The first time I Googled myself, I found a guy sharing my full name… who, besides having a family and kids, was working for the Smithsonian and had published two books on ecological diversity. JEALOUSY!

  4. -licious: A suffix which connotes desirability or attractiveness of the thing whose name it is combined with.

    Yeah… almost as clever as working your full first name into the word “delicious”.

  5. Wow. The first eight of my name on Google are…ME! Number nine is my first googleganger, an author; number 10 is an executive. Damn.

    I may be overexposed on Google. Is that possible? :-D

    “Thought showers?” That’s just stupid. I thought “lipstick on a pig” went back to Mark Twain, but I could be wrong…I found this at SeattlePi.com:

    “The earliest written record Barrett found of the phrase goes back three decades and appeared close to home — in a 1980 article from the Quad-City Herald in Brewster, Wash.: “You can clean up a pig, put a ribbon on it’s [sic] tail, spray it with perfume, but it is still a pig.”

    Barrett found earlier origins stretching back as much as 300 years, to the phrase, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
    Whatever the origin, it’s not a new phrase…or idea.

  6. I have to say I’m stunned that “rofflenui” made it in there – it’s appeared relatively recently on a few NZ forums, recently enough that the spelling is still very variable. I wouldn’t have expected anyone from the American Dialect Society to have come across it.

    (In case anyone is interested in the derivation, “nui” is Maori for “big”.)

  7. Before I was married I had a Googleganger, a jazz singer from New York. In fact, when I was about 14, my aunt sent me a concert listing from her local paper for the “Kristin Mueller Trio”.

    Now that I have a completely unique hyphenated name, however, I don’t have any. Sad.

  8. A friend of mine – let’s call him Joe Blank – once googled himself, and the first result was “The Joe Blank Memorial Page”. He said it was a bit of a shock, like seeing a gravestone with your name on it.

  9. I don’t have any Googlegangers either, which makes me sad, because I love the word and want to use it. I guess I’ll just have to go round asking everyone who their Googleganger is.
    My absolute favourite is rofflenui. It’s not mentioned in the OP but ‘nui’ means ‘big, large’, etc. My love for this one possibly stems from some absurd sense of national pride, and definitely from the sense of silliness that this word embodies. I’m so using it. It even beats ROFLcopter.

  10. I have used Palinesque, but my meaning was that a person’s big words seemed drawn at random from a group of relevant buzz words, without having any idea how to make sense with them. I see people like that in the business world all the time. They are *never* good analysts, but sometimes they work their way up in management. They haven’t a clue, but other people who don’t have a clue find their explanations compelling. Now, isn’t that just Palinesque?

  11. “thought showers: Coined by a British city council because the synonym “brainstorming” was said to be offensive to epileptics.”

    But “thought showers” is offensive to incontinent people.

    Now that the economy is slow, it’s time to bring back my favorite term for getting laid off – “Involuntarily leisured.”

  12. @James K: It’s gained fairly extensive currency on the Public Address blog forums, and I think I’ve seen it used occasionally on The Hand Mirror (a feminist blog). Other than that, nowhere springs to mind. That’s why I was so surprised to see it!

  13. The first google hit on my name is for me. The second is for a banker in London. I have no doubt that the Londoner is a guy who was once the roommate (in Israel) of another guy I used to be friends with in Colorado. In other words, there are only two people in Britain with my name and my friend from Colorado is probably the only person in the world who is actually a friend to both of us.

  14. I apparently have a few Googlegangers including the president of the Penn State math club, a British pool player, an Australian DJ, and my dad. Most others seem to be me, or are due to the fact that my last name is a common verb.

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