Saturday 31 December 2011

Word of the Year 2011

With the mince pies and sherry at the ready, there’s probably no better time to reflect on the year gone by. Since words are the tools of my trade, it's worth taking a look at some of the words that made it on to the scene over the last 12 months.

First of all, what’s the criteria for Word of the Year?  
Well, according to the Oxford Dictionaries website:
"The Word of the Year is a word or expression that we feel has attracted a great deal of interest in the year to date. It need not have been coined within the past twelve months and it does not have to be a word that will stick around for a good length of time. It may not currently be in our English dictionaries, and it may never be deemed common enough to be included. It simply has to be a word which we feel has been embraced by the general public this year and has lasting potential as a word of cultural significance."

So, what were their findings?
"Protest was a huge inspiration in this year’s Word of the Year contest, and our shortlist in the UK included Arab Spring, Occupy, and hacktivism. Phone hacking (hardly new to the English language but one which resurfaced in the wake of the News of the World phonehacking scandal) also came close to the top spot.

"Some more colourful contenders which were considered earlier in the selection process, but which didn’t quite cut the mustard, included: bunga bunga, as used in the context of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s infamous parties, crowdfunding, defined as the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, facepalm, a gesture in which the palm of one’s hand is brought to one’s face as an expression of dismay, exasperation, embarrassment, etc., and fracking, the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introducing liquid at a high pressure, especially to extract oil or gas."

Fighting off this stiff competition, the word (or words) that was deemed more appropriate than all the rest was squeezed middle. This term is defined as “the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty, consisting principally of those people on low or middle incomes.” The phrase is attributed to the Labour leader of the opposition in the UK, Ed Miliband

There were other words too that popped up in the news. Economic phrases included bond yields, sovereign debt and haircuts. But does anyone know what they mean? We were also one step closer to knowing who Higgs Boson was with the elusive subatomic constituent known as the God Particle travelling between Switzerland and Italy at speeds unfathomable to the human mind.  

So, what about Dutch?
In the Netherlands, Tuigdorp was voted the Van Dale Woord van het Jaar 2011, an isolated location where habitual offenders are sent to and a term which has been attributed to none other than Mr Geert Wilders. In second place comes caviapolitie, or 'animal cops' who now form their own division within the police force. Number 3 is occupy: hardly surprising that there is some cross-over between languages here. Likewise, the youth word planking, a craze that involves posing for a photograph whilst lying facedown in a rigid planklike position. In sport, wordfeuden, from Wordfeud, a multiplayer word game for iPhone and Android devices, has been popularised, though I'm not entirely sure where the element of sport comes into it.

Are you, like me, one of those people who likes their creature comforts when travelling by train? Well, fear no more, in 2011 the NS came up with the idea of the plaszak. The national train operator dreamed up this receptacle so that passengers on toiletless trains could gain some relief should their trains ever get stuck in snow-drifts, or, as is more common in the Netherlands, suffer downed power lines.  

My own personal favourite?        
There's something about confined public spaces that gives certain types of people (teenagers usually) an urge to play tinny music to each other on their mobile phones. Well now someone's devised a word for this irritaing habit: it's called sodcasting.
If I had my way, I'd have these mobile devices chucked into a plaszak - after it's been used of course. 

What a cheerful note to end the year on. Happy New Year folks! 

Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2011