'Dumpster fire' is 2016 American Dialect Society word of the year

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The press release is here:

In its 27th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted for dumpster fire as the Word of the Year for 2016. Defined as “an exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation,” the term dumpster fire was selected as best representing the public discourse and preoccupations of the past year.  

Presiding at the Jan. 6 voting session were ADS Executive Secretary Allan Metcalf of MacMurray College and Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society. Zimmer is also the language columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

LLOG covered "Dumpster fire" a little more than six months ago. Can we repeat-predict the 2017 WOTY? Stay tuned …


  1. Ari Corcoran said,

    January 8, 2017 @ 2:58 am

    Presumably yes, if "repeat-predict" is voted as word of the year for 2017!

  2. Bill Benzon said,

    January 8, 2017 @ 3:59 am

    What of "Trumpster fire"? Is that not “an exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation” representing "public discourse and preoccupations of the past year"?

  3. Graeme said,

    January 8, 2017 @ 4:40 am

    As Word of the Year competitions spread, 'anniverb' will first be trademarked, then declared to be 2017's anniverb. Pop linguistics will have eaten itself.

  4. Phila said,

    January 9, 2017 @ 8:52 am

    I've never really understood this term. A dumpster is metal and not very big, so any fire is likely to be neatly contained and easy to put out with a hose. And the contents of a dumpster, typically, are of no value to anyone (and may well be en route to an incinerator anyway).

    As structure fires go, it's hard to imagine a LESS disastrous and chaotic situation. Personallly, I'd much rather be confronted with a dumpster fire than a shitstorm!

  5. Johan P said,

    January 9, 2017 @ 9:08 am

    Always enjoys the irreverent ADS picks, one of the most enjoyable word-of-the-year lists.

    I do have to wonder about the americanness of the stereotypically-Londoner "fam" though. Wrong definition, too. (It's used as a singular noun, rahter than a collective one.) Unless it's crept into US speech with a different meaning?

  6. chris said,

    January 9, 2017 @ 6:59 pm

    @Phila: without disagreeing with any part of your analysis, I nevertheless wouldn't want to be downwind of one.

    Also, if something is already a dumpster, there's still one obvious way to make it worse. Maybe you're supposed to implicitly compare it to dumpsters in other conditions, rather than other things on fire?

  7. Rod Johnson said,

    January 9, 2017 @ 9:55 pm

    What does "fam" mean to Londoners?

  8. Johan P said,

    January 10, 2017 @ 4:52 am

    @Rod Johnson

    "Friend" or more precisely "person who is part of my group/circle, close enough to be family" – younger londoners (especially from afrocaribbean backgrounds) use this where older ones would use "mate", but with stronger connotations of closeness – cf. "bruv" and "blud" with similar meaning and connotations.

    So essentiually the same as described, except primarily as a singular noun for one, specific person.

    I may be wrong about its Londonness though – Urban Dictionary has plenty of American examples going back a decade and a half, both singular and collective.

  9. John Smith said,

    January 14, 2017 @ 7:46 am

    It's a black thing, not a London thing (though it may have started there).

    Fam/Cuz/Bruv/Blud are more or less the same though fam has seen more use among non-blacks in a semi-ironic kind of way.

    And bruv is different to bro or brother.

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