Magazine article Communication World

Bailouts, Mavericks, Staycations and More: Editors and Concerned Speakers of English Offer Their Words of the Year, Good and Bad

Magazine article Communication World

Bailouts, Mavericks, Staycations and More: Editors and Concerned Speakers of English Offer Their Words of the Year, Good and Bad

Article excerpt

It's that time of year again. Oops, that's one of the words or phrases that a vigilant reader nominated for Lake Superior State University's 34th annual List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. "When is it not 'that time of year again'?" wrote Kathleen Brosemer of Sank Ste. Marie, Ontario. "From Valentine's Day to year-end charity letters, invitations to summer picnics and Christmas parties, it's 'that time' of year again. Just get to the point of the solicitation, invitation and newsletter, and cut out six useless and annoying words."

You've probably noticed that some words and phrases get plenty of play during the course of the year, good and bad, and there are a number of organizations, lexicographers and concerned wordsmiths that take the time to report them in the waning days of the year. Here's a roundup of what people were saying in 2008.

Clearly, the world's economic slide dominated the news in 2008, bringing with it both the American Dialect Society's and Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year, bailout. Unless you've been living in a cave (and sometimes that may seem preferable to the bailout bluster of the past several months), you probably know that, generally, a bailout is "a rescue from financial distress." Everyone seems to be asking for a government bailout, from the U.S. financial industry to the housing industry to the auto industry. And because not everyone agrees that such massive financial packages are warranted, bailout was the word on just about everyone's lips, especially in the latter half of the year.


No doubt reflecting the election hoopla in the U.S., the Word of the Year runners-up, determined by the number of queries to Merriam-Webster's web site, were vet, socialism, maverick, bipartisan, trepidation, precipice, rogue, misogyny and turmoil. Meanwhile, the American Dialect Society created a new category this year for election-related words and phrases, including such entries as maverick, lipstick on a pig (meaning an adornment of something that can't be made pretty), and hockey morn. Palinesque, meaning "pertaining to a person who has extended themselves beyond their expertise, thereby bringing ridicule upon a serious matter," also received some votes.

Please don't overshare

The editors of Webster's New World Dictionary chose as their word of the year overshare. A verb, overshare means "to divulge excessive personal information, as in a blog or broadcast interview, prompting reactions ranging from alarmed discomfort to approval."

Personally, I've been telling one of my friends for years to stop oversharing, especially on a first date. Nothing scares off a guy like hearing your entire life story, including your complicated relationship with your parents, before you've even ordered dinner. But now, it seems, the blogosphere has taken oversharing to new heights (or depths, depending on how you look at it). Noted Mike Agnes, editor in chief of Webster's New World Dictionary: "Some people use it disparagingly; they don't like oversharing. Others think oversharing is good and that one must give full disclosure of one's inner life. Sometimes there is a generational shift in the way people look at this practice and therefore the word. …

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