January 06, 2013

"Hashtag" -- really?

How very disappointing. The American Dialect Society crowned "hashtag," another technoogy-related term, Word of the Year. It's not even a word that is used all that often (the process of hashtagging is, but not the word itself). What a boring pick, following in the footsteps of "app" (2010), "tweet" (2009), and "web" (word of the decade). Gone are the more playful days of "truthiness" (2005) and "to be plutoed" (2006). Other contesters don't really sound all that interesting either:
YOLO: acronym for “You Only Live Once,” often used sarcastically or self-deprecatingly fiscal cliff: threat of spending cuts and tax increases looming over end-of-year budget negotiations 
Gangnam style: the trendy style of Seoul’s Gangnam district, as used in the Korean pop song of the same namemarriage equality: legal recognition of same-sex marriage47 percent: portion of the population that [supposedly] does not pay federal income tax
My favorite category is usually that of the "most creative" new word. But I can't say I find the nominated words very inspiring either:
mansplaining: a man’s condescending explanation to a female audience  alpacalypse: the Mayan apocalypse predicted for Dec. 21, 2012 gate lice: airline passengers who crowd around a gate waiting to boarddancelexia: inability to pull off dance moves (such as misspelling “YMCA”) 
I fully agree with the "most outrageous" label for the expression "legitimate rape", used by Missouri Senate candiate Todd Akin. (He was not elected.) Mitt Romney's expression "binders full of women" might also have been nominated in this category. (He was not elected either.)
In the category "most likely to succeed", we find "fiscal cliff" (which is ubiquitous already), "superstorm" (which I would't even have recognized as a new word), "marriage equality," and "big data" ("large collections of digital information used for revealing behavioral insights." 

It seems that having big linguistic data at our disposal doesn't exactly make the whole Word of the Year thing more interesting. The most interesting thing about it is that, according to Ben Zimmer, the chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, "hashtag" wasn't even on the original list of nominated words. More about the nomination and voting process can be read here.

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