Nominees for 2010 Word of the Year

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The American Dialect Society (meeting in Pittsburgh in conjunction with the Linguistic Society of America) has selected nominees in the various categories for Word of the Year. You can check out the full list here.

The final votes in all categories will take place tonight (Friday) at 5:30 pm in Sterlings 1, 2, 3 at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown Hotel. Attendees of the cabal LSA conference (and interested members of the public who happen to be in Pittsburgh) are welcome to attend and participate. Those who are unable to attend can follow the action via Twitter at @americandialect (using the #woty10 hashtag).

[Late update: And the winner is… app — a word not on the original list of candidates, but instead nominated from the floor, much like tweet last year.]


  1. Mr Fnortner said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 11:20 am

    The list is fun to read, and contemplate. I didn't realize nostalgia could be so current.

    On that point, does appearance on the list indicate that the American Dialect Society considers each word to have been coined or first used in 2010? Or is it that the word first achieved currency or notoriety just last year? In my own experience, our management group and HR department used telework at as far back as 1994 or 95. Fat-finger is at least ten years old as well. Man up is also relatively old, having appeared in TV sitcom dialog and office banter for several years.

    Thinking about prehab, I wondered if one cleaned up a bit to admit oneself into prehab, then fell off the wagon before enrolling, would that be considered a prelapse?

  2. Robert Coren said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 11:45 am

    The only one of these that is completely opaque to me is "Yat Dat". Google was not as helpful as I expected (every link I looked at seemed to assume that I already knew something about it.) Can someone enlighten me?

  3. Shangwen said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 11:51 am

    Prehab is a "real" word already…it's used in health care to refer to physiotherapy done prior to surgery in order to shorten recovery time and reduce the need for post-surgical rehab.

  4. Ben Zimmer said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 11:53 am

    Mr Fnortner: The ADS guidelines state that WOTY candidates should be:

    —new or newly popular in 2010
    —widely or prominently used in 2010
    —indicative or reflective of the popular discourse

    So no, the words don't have to have been first used in the past year, just notably used.

  5. Dick Margulis said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 11:59 am

    @Robert Coren: "Yat" is eye dialect for the common New Orleans expression "[where are] you at?" (sounds like where yat). I can't help with the "dat" part.

  6. Geoff Nunberg said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    A depressing list. Of the 31 candidates, there are only three — junk, the verb trend, and the suffix –pad — that aren't likely to be trivial pursuit items in a couple of years. Fat finger, nom, hacktivism — are these really the expressions that best capture this historical moment? (Recall 2006's plutoed? What an eventful year that must have been.) The dominant criterion here is cuteness; they're mostly cat-picture words. And when the story is picked up by the media, they'll play it against a subtext about the fatuity and irrelevance of language scholars. They'll be dead right, too.

  7. Chandra said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

    I think the makers of this list might be suffering a bit from the recency illusion. There are a few on there that were neither new nor newly popular in 2010 ("junk", "nom", "-pad", and "man up", most notably).

  8. Jon Weinberg said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

    @Robert Coren: "Who dat" is part of a chant used by New Orleans Saints fans, and "yat" is described by Wikipedia as "a unique dialect of English spoken in the Greater New Orleans Area." Hence, for a person who is both a Saints fan and a native of New Orleans: "yat dat".

  9. Ken Brown said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

    Chandra said: "I think the makers of this list might be suffering a bit from the recency illusion. There are a few on there that were neither new nor newly popular in 2010 ("junk", "nom", "-pad", and "man up", most notably)."

    Surely "telework" is the most unrecent? Or at any rate, "teleworker". Positively dated. It sounds 80s to me but I'd believe 70s. Time to look it up…

  10. chris said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 1:29 pm

    Surely "telework" is the most unrecent?

    I would guess "fat-finger" is older — I first encountered it in the Jargon File, which goes back to the 60s (although not every entry is equally old).

    It's probably reaching new prominence with the proliferation of touch screens, which are much more prone to fat-fingering than a keyboard (other than a chiclet keyboard, a term whose age can be read from its reference to a product that AFAIK doesn't exist anymore).

    "Phoenix firm" is kind of neat; I hadn't seen it before.

  11. Joe Kessler said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 1:31 pm

    Chandra said: "I think the makers of this list might be suffering a bit from the recency illusion. There are a few on there that were neither new nor newly popular in 2010 ("junk", "nom", "-pad", and "man up", most notably)."

    In defense of "nom," my feeling is that it actually was newly popular in 2010. It's been around for a while, but mostly as a sound effect used in writing online — particularly in "cat-picture words," as Geoff Nunberg notes. In 2010 it became a lot more common as a grammatical noun ("some noms"), verb ("nomming"), and associated forms ("nommable", etc.). It's also spread much more to the spoken language, and really seems to be taking off.

  12. Bill Ricker said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

    commentary by category –

    fat-finger has been quite useful in technical usage a LONG time, but nice to see it gain recognition. Vuvuzela is very useful to finally have a name for those horrid things.

    I like phoenix firm, although it's really not all that creative; phoenix is the standard metaphor. Awesome sauce is just another turn of the lazy hipster jargon generator rotiserie after prior year's made of awesome. Spillionaire is quite creative.

    refudiate and gate rape should win their categoies against dull competition by a mile.

    hacktivism is new only outside tech circles. Telework has federal mandate for term, should be disqualified. Tweeps' trending(vi) was current in 2009. Vote No Award !

    I like Fauxhemian, I will use it even if it wins least likely. Let us fervently hope oil well control techniques revert to technical use only, which may be reason enough to vote it, but I'd enjoy more irony if Fauxhemian wins.

    ObamaCare is a synonym for RomneyCare. If Mama Grizzly wins, Caribou Barbie might get a double … that's reason enough.

    The Twihards have moved on, are Tweethearts now; didn't last. Gleek using geek positively deserves support.

  13. Dan T. said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

    NOM can also be the National Organization for Marriage, a group working for anti-gay discrimination the protection of "traditional" marriage.

  14. Dan T. said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

    I see the "strike" HTML tag I put as a special effect on "anti-gay discrimination" got stripped by your comment software.

  15. Xmun said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 2:03 pm

    Why should anyone want to jump out of a plane in a kayak? And has anyone really done it?

  16. GeorgeW said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

    I am not clear on the origin, pronunciation or use of 'nom.'

    If it is onomatopoeic, what sound is it imitating?

  17. Paul Zukowski said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

    Combing words on the list led to "junk sugar"

  18. Chandra said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

    @Joe Kessler: From my point of view it seems that people have been using "nom" in the ways you describe quite prolifically since at least 2008, but I guess that may just be the particular groups of people I know.

    @GeorgeW: I've always thought of it as coming from the "nyamnyamnyam" sound kids make when they're pretending to eat something. I don't know about exact origin, but its use has certainly been popularized by

  19. Coughin' Ed said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

    my first encounter with "nom" would have to be sesame street…"C is for cookie that's good enough for me nom nom nom nom"

  20. disfraz said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 2:54 pm


    'nom' comes from the onomatopoeia 'om nom nom', which is the sound the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street makes when doing what he does best.

  21. PTC said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

    A few years ago I saw a farmstand in New Hampshire selling sweet corn and other produce under the name "Nyam Nyam." I found that amusing, because there was an allegedly cannibalistic people in central Africa who were onomatopoetically known as the Nyam Nyam. (Wikipedia tells me their proper name is Azande.)

  22. Jayarava said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 3:01 pm

    My favourite word is, and always will be, "autumnal".

  23. GeorgeW said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

    Thanks, I guess I have been away from Sesame Street too many years as my kids are in their 30s.

    Is 'nom' pronounced /nyum/ rhyming for 'yum'?

  24. Faldone said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 3:03 pm

    Or, in this context, nom is short for nomination and is pronounced the same as the first syllable of nomination.

  25. Ken Grabach said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

    Gleek is probably a word of a very time sensitive nature, yet I am acquainted with several folk whom it describes well. So I find it a useful word for the moment. I doubt whether it will last another year, however, even if the series lasts longer.

  26. majolo said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

    Here's a clip from Sesame Street attributing "Om nom nom" to Cookie Monster (and C.M. wondering why he doesn't get royalties).
    I'd be curious if anyone could dredge up a very early Cookie Monster clip and see if the sound has changed (I speculate it was much less standardized and less transcribable originally).

  27. Ken Grabach said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

    Hactivism, I think this should have gone under the most useful category. And Hactivist is just as useful. Portmanteau word that should have been around longer than it has.

  28. Doug said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    @ Chandra:

    "There are a few on there that were neither new nor newly popular in 2010 ("junk", "nom", "-pad", and "man up", most notably)."

    I think you're being too harsh. "Man up" certainly attained new prominence in 2010 — I don't recall hearing it in recent years until Sharon Angle famously used it to Harry Reid. And I never heard "junk" in the "Don't touch my junk" sense until the incident in 2010.

    So both were "prominently used in 2010", meeting one of the criteria for WOTY.

  29. Bryan said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 5:13 pm

    Farveism – Don't know if this has gone public yet, but I created it in my small circle of friends to describe "a total screw up" whether a person or an event.

    Example: As in a very famous quarterback taking a picture of his junk and texting it to a young cheerleader in hopes to persuade her into a late night hookup.

    Now that was the original Farveism!

  30. blahedo said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 5:51 pm

    They're voting right now, apparently. My thoughts: "refudiate" and "enhanced pat-down" seem to be the only legitimate candidates (for different reasons); the others are either marginal, trivial, or passe.

    Actually, there's one other, which is exceptional for a different reason: "junk" is weird because its examples use it in at least two and arguably three completely different senses. Which strikes me as making it a strange choice, although perhaps it just makes it an even better choice for the ADS folks.

  31. Robert Coren said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

    @Chris: I'm pretty sure Chiclets still exist. There's a Mexican restaurant in Gloucester, MA, that (rather strangely in my view) provides a mini-box of Chiclets with the check, or at least they did the last time I was there (which might have been as long ago as summer 2009).

  32. Neil Dolinger said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

    I question the choice of "terror baby" rather than "anchor baby". The latter is what I have heard used by legislators in their speeches calling for changes to the 14th Amendment. Unfortunately, I think that particular argument will have legs for quite some time.

  33. Ray Dillinger said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

    A lot of the financial-services people I know, even after the full force of the recent economic meltdown, are still using "leeson" (the name of the perpetrator of a financial catastrophe which may have been a precursor to the main crisis) as their verb for committing a monumental screwup or, interchangeably, as their noun for someone who has done so. It was capitalized in emails for at least a couple years after it appeared, but recently has been seen mainly in lowercase, which indicates to me that it is now being used as a word by people who don't know it originated as someone's name, like "guillotine" or "boycott".

    It still seems to be limited to the sense of a financial screwup committed with other people's money, especially under the influence of conflicts of interest or perverse incentives; I suppose the wider the parlance it eventually gains, the more its meaning will be generalized.

  34. Xmun said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 8:11 pm

    Then you must read (if you haven't already done so) Donne's ninth Elegy, which begins:

    No Spring, nor Summer Beauty hath such grace,
    As I have seen in one Autumnall face.

  35. Clayton Burns said,

    January 7, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

    If that is all they have to do with their time:

    ["App" — a shortening of the word "application," referring to computer software — was picked in a vote by linguists meeting Friday in Pittsburgh. It got 69 votes, defeating "nom" — a chat-, tweet-, and text-friendly syllable that connotes "yummy food" — in a runoff. In the finals, "app" defeated "junk," "WikiLeaks" and "trend," in addition to "nom."]

    Zimmer certainly made a good case for "junk" in his NYT On Language column. The best idea for this competition would be to deep six it. Geoff Nunberg has the right take on it.

  36. maidhc said,

    January 8, 2011 @ 12:06 am

    The classic work "English As She Is Spoke" (1855/1883) includes "gleek" in the category Games, along with "carousal", "pile", "mall", "even or non even" and "keel".

  37. Peter Taylor said,

    January 8, 2011 @ 8:53 am

    In what way does "app" qualify as new or newly popular in 2010? It became widely popular in 2009, if not before.

  38. Brett said,

    January 8, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

    I too find "app" a very puzzling choice. Certainly, more people have smart phones (which are the most natural ecosystems in which an app might be found), but societal discussion of smart phones and their apps probably peaked after the first iPhone was released and seems to have diminished over the last few years.

    Moreover, I associate "app" with the phrase "killer app," a term which I remember being assured (by a more tech-savvy acquaintance) was here to stay, but for which the Ngram history shows a marked peak around 2002 and a steep decline since.

  39. Breffni said,

    January 8, 2011 @ 6:10 pm

    Ray Dillinger:

    A lot of the financial-services people I know, even after the full force of the recent economic meltdown, are still using "leeson" (the name of the perpetrator of a financial catastrophe which may have been a precursor to the main crisis) as their verb for committing a monumental screwup

    Nick Leeson is now the CEO of my hometown soccer team. My friends down there dream that some day his name will be associated with "spectacular success against all odds" rather than "monumental screwup".

  40. J. Goard said,

    January 9, 2011 @ 4:55 am

    There's no way I could use "gleek" in the sense mentioned (even if I cared a rat's ass about that show), since it has such a well-entrenched meaning from my middle school days (in the linguistically productive SF Bay Area), namely 'to squirt saliva from one's mouth by moving one's tongue'.

  41. linda seebach said,

    January 9, 2011 @ 8:21 am

    People in Alaska were using "spillionaire" when we were there (in Cordova, as I recall) a year or two after the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Of course it was prominent in 2010, but I suspect it was remembered rather than newly created, as people who were called in as "experts" would certainly have studied earlier incidents.

  42. bryan said,

    January 9, 2011 @ 8:56 pm

    From 2010 LSSU List of Banished Words


    "Must we b sbjct to yt another abrv? Why does the English language have to fit on a two-inch screen? I hate the sound of it. I think I'll listen to a symph on the rad." — Edward R. Bolt, Grand Rapids, Mich.

    "Is there an 'app' for making this annoying word go away? Why can't we just call them 'programs' again?" – Kuahmel Allah, Los Angeles, Calif.


    PS I can't believe that this word was banished last year [2010] by LSSU and in the same year, it's also voted as the winner of "2010 Word of the Year" by the American Dialect Society.

  43. bryan said,

    January 9, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

    RE: Aqua Buddha
    Fictitious deity in collegiate
    scandal involving Rand Paul, raised during his
    Kentucky Senate campaign.

    But they are wrong:
    Buddha was never a deity!

    Definitions of the word "Buddha":
    1. Also called Butsu, Gautama, Gautama Buddha. ( Prince Siddhāttha or Siddhartha ), 566?–c480 b.c., Indian religious leader: founder of Buddhism.

    2. ( sometimes lowercase ) Buddhism . a person who has attained full prajna, or enlightenment; Arhat.

    What does Aqua have to do with Buddha? Aqua is the Latin word for "water". Buddha is from India/Nepal, not a place where Latin is spoken or used.

    There's no such thing as a "Buddha Bar" either! Even the name Buddha Bar is changed to Anaj Bar as the name of a restaurant. It's also the name of a band.

  44. Ellen K. said,

    January 9, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    Bryan, there's so many things wrong with your post. The word list does not claim Buddha is a diety, nor make any other claims about Buddha. For starters.

  45. chris said,

    January 10, 2011 @ 10:00 am

    The latter is what I have heard used by legislators in their speeches calling for changes to the 14th Amendment. Unfortunately, I think that particular argument will have legs for quite some time.

    ISTM that pigs will fly sooner than 3/4 of states will ratify repeal of the jus soli (not to mention getting it past Congress in the first place). But that doesn't mean the issue won't be waved around as a political football anyway.

  46. Azimuth said,

    January 13, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

    I don't think "corn sugar" belongs in the Euphemism category. You want a euphemism? I bought some desserts recently whose sweetening was labeled "Florida Crystals."

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