Buzzwords of 2009

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Mark Leibovich and Grant Barrett have done another end-of-the-year buzzword catalog for the NYT Week in Review. There's a sampling on the front page: aporkalypse, Chimerica, octomom, car tone, ununbium. And then Grant's main list, from athey to wise Latina woman, on p. 3.

Their piece, "Buzzwords: Coining a Not Great Year", begins

You could Tweet all the highlights of 2009 and still have time for dithering. But to catalog the lingo? It would be like one long torture memo. We need to impose a timetable. Let's get right to our full plate.

and continues in this self-illustrative vein.

A few entries have put in appearances on Language Log (though we don't attempt to chronicle new expressions systematically): crash blossom here, gaymarry or gay-marry here, I'mma let you finish heremeep here and here. And on my blog, heinie (in the spelling hiney). (I might well have missed some.) As usual, a nice crop of portmanteau words: aporkalypse and Chimerica from p. 1, and then jeggings, mancession, sexting, vook.


  1. lambert strether said,

    December 21, 2009 @ 12:11 pm


    1. Bankster

    2. Clusterf*ck.

    Izvestia — Covering for its masters to the very end!

    [(amz) I suppose I wasn't clear enough. I was only noting that there might be further items in the NYT catalog that had been discussed on Language Log (or my blog), beyond the ones that I cited. People could argue endlessly about which items "should" have been on the Leibovich/Barrett list; opinions will differ. In the end, Leibovich and Barrett were given only so much space for this piece, and they had to use their judgment about which items to include. (There is a place for comments on the site.)]

  2. Sili said,

    December 21, 2009 @ 12:37 pm

    Aporkalypse, also known as Parmageddon(/Hamageddon).

    It's escaped my notice that Copernicium got to be a buzzword. I guess, that speaks further to my failure as a chemist.

    This seems like an appropriate place to post Carol of the Mee(p)s as a followup to Mee(p) to Joy.

  3. Jean-Sébastien Girard said,

    December 21, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

    "Aporkalypse, also known as Parmageddon(/Hamageddon)."

    I liked "Hamthrax" myself.

  4. Alex said,

    December 21, 2009 @ 6:56 pm

    What happened to "too big to fail"?

  5. Forrest said,

    December 22, 2009 @ 6:47 pm

    I guess i'll echo Jean-Sébastien Girard; I hadn't heard of the aporkalypse, but had been warned about hamthrax.

  6. Roy said,

    December 23, 2009 @ 11:01 am

    "What happened to 'too big to fail'? "

    I sense a snowclone in the making. I've seen/heard "too stupid to succeed" & "too complicated to succeed" in a snowclonish context.

  7. Ben Karlin said,

    December 27, 2009 @ 9:08 pm

    I wouldn't think Aporkalypse is a portmanteau as much as embedding. Isn't Carroll's description more of a jamming together instead of one word overlaying another?

  8. Zwicky Arnold said,

    December 28, 2009 @ 12:23 pm

    Ben Karlin: "Isn't Carroll's description more of a jamming together instead of one word overlaying another?"

    Well, no. What Humpty Dumpty says when he explains the odd words in "Jabberwocky" to Alice (in Through the Looking-Glass) is that they have "two meanings packed up into one word". The examples he gives are slithy 'lithe and slimy' and mimsy 'flimsy and miserable' — both involving the contributing words overlaid on one another in a complex way (and involving contributors that have the same stressed vowel).

    Many portmanteau words are much simpler than this: just the initial portion of one contributor followed by the final portion of the other, as in brunch (br- from breakfast, -unch from lunch). Others have one word plus a truncated version of another, as in snowtastrophe 'snow catastrophe'; often the words overlap in such cases, as in shopportunity, sharing the op of shop and opportunity. And there are other, more complex possibilities.

  9. Inventory of portmanteau postings « Arnold Zwicky's Blog said,

    December 28, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

    […] 12/21/09: Buzzwords of 2009 (link) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Inventorying stuff: Include All NecessaryPlease […]

  10. Zwicky Arnold said,

    December 28, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

    More on portmanteau words: there's now an inventory of postings on portmanteaus (on Language Log and my blog), here.

    [and an addendum here.]

  11. Zimriel said,

    December 31, 2009 @ 5:50 pm

    Also, Unobtainium, again, first seen in The Core and reborn in Avatar.

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