January 23, 2015

January 10, 2015

#blacklivesmatter Word of the Year

What a letdown! The American Dialect Society voted #blacklivesmatter as Word of the Year. Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee, offers the following argument:

“While #blacklivesmatter may not fit the traditional definition of a word, it demonstrates how powerfully a hashtag can convey a succinct social message... Language scholars are paying attention to the innovative linguistic force of hashtags, and #blacklivesmatter was certainly a forceful example of this in 2014.”
Yes, yes, yes,  crowning a hashtag WOTY certainly draws attention to the innovative linguistic force of hashtags (as does creating the category "hashtag of the year") and  #blacklivesmatter was certainly one of the most relevant hashtags of the year, and yes, there are many linguists who won't make a conceptual distinction between words, phrases, and sentences (they are all "constructions"), but call me old school -- I like the idea of a word as a combination of form (sound, gesture, writing) and meaning (lexical or grammatical) that can combine with other words according to the rules of grammar to form a clause. Hashtags don't have that function, the word "hashtag," on the other hand (WOTY 2013) does.

Alas, a glance at the list of nominations shows that the pool of candidates this year was rather ...shallow.  "Ebola" as a most useful word? "Plastiglomorate" as one of the words most likely to succeed? After last year's vote (for the construction "because NP/AP," which is certainly a cool innovative construction, but not A WORD), I really would have liked to see a better record of linguistic innovation that doesn't require us to really streeeeeetch the meaning of "word."


Edited to add: WOTY goes Style Section of the NY Times ("At the Super Bowl of Linguistics).

January 09, 2015

Selfies and belfies

Selfie was recognized by Oxford Dictionaries as "Word of the Year" 2014. This year, "selfie stick" has bee nominated in the category "most likely to succeed" by the American Dialect Society (the vote takes place tonight).

It would be rather boring, however, to pick a derivative of last year's word. What about a derivative of the derivative? Meet the "Belfie stick," "angled perfectly to give you the ability to snap a great shot of  your dierriere", resulting in a "butt selfie." (Is this a thing?)


The Belfie should come with a sticker "Excuse our French." (The French word for buttocks is spelled "derrière", not "dierriere.")