Linguist, lexicographer, writer, editor, broadcaster

Early nominations for the grandaddy of all 2008 word-of-the-year votes are released

The product of one of the other hats I wear:

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Early nominations for the American Dialect Society’s 2008 word of the year vote are now available, including three batches from society members who specialize in following language trends, and a list of the most-nominated terms from the general public in the US and Canada.

All nominations will be considered for the American Dialect Society’s 19th annual word-of-the-year (WOTY) vote, the longest-running vote of its kind in the Anglophone world and the WOTY event up to which all others lead. It will be held in San Francisco on Friday, January 9, 2009, and is open at no cost to members of the press and public. Detailed information on where and when the final vote will be held is here.

Judging by the nomination trends, two major events preoccupied North America over the last 12 months and dominated its discourse. An impressive 51% of the nominations were related to the American presidential election, including 13.5% that were plays on Barack Obama‘s name, 2.7%% that were related to Joe (as in Joe the Plumber or Joe Sixpack), and 2.2% that were related to the name of Sarah Palin. Coming in a distant second were the 19% of the nominations related to the financial crisis.

The top individual nominations from the public so far, in order of popularity:

1. change 11.7%
2. bailout 9%
3. maverick 4%
4. to vet; vetting 3.6%
5. Obama-nation/Obomination/Obamination treated as one item 2.7%
6. (tie) game-changer, hope, and Obamamania each with 2.2%
7. (tie) Obamanos and you betcha, each with 1.8%
8. (tie) Joe Six-Pack and meh, each with 1.3%

More nominations, with definitions and supporting information, are available from these society members:

Nominations from Grant Barrett, chair of the American Dialect Society’s New Words Committee and its vice president of communications and technology; co-host of the nationwide public radio show A Way with Words; and editor of the Double-Tongued Dictionary.

Nominations from Wayne Glowka, Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Reinhardt College in Waleska, Georgia, and former editor of the “Among the New Words” column of the society’s journal American Speech.

Nominations from Ben Zimmer, executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus, and member of the Executive Council of the American Dialect Society.

Media contact information for each nominator is included in the files above.

Nominations from the public can still be sent to this address.

The best “word of the year” candidates will be:

—new or newly popular in 2008
—widely or prominently used in 2008
—indicative or reflective of the national discourse

Multi-word compounds or phrases that act as single lexical items are welcomed, as well.

Sub-categories for “word of the year” include most useful, most creative, most unnecessary, most outrageous, most euphemistic, most likely to succeed, and least likely to succeed.

The vote is informed by the members’ expertise in the study of words, but it is far from a solemn occasion. Members in the 119-year-old academic organization include linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, authors, editors, professors, university students, and independent scholars. In conducting the vote, they act in fun and do not pretend to be officially inducting words into the English language. Instead, they are highlighting that language change is normal, ongoing, and entertaining.

Previous winners can be found here.

The American Dialect Society is open to all persons worldwide who have an interest in language. Membership includes four annual issues of the society’s academic journal, one complete scholarly work per year from the Publication of the American Dialect Society series, and subscription to its email newsletter. There is a discounted membership rate for students at any academic level, who are especially encouraged to join.

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Grant Barrett