Perhaps nothing tells us more about a year than the words we used over and over again. What words most perfectly defined this year? What phrases captured the mood of the nation and the emotional state of its people? Last year, Merriam-Webster voted “austerity” their Word of the Year for 2010. They picked “bailout” as the word that most captured the spirit of 2008.
What should be this year’s Word of the Year? Here are some contenders that were on the tips of our tongues in 2011.
Arab Spring (n.) The wave of protests sweeping Middle Eastern nations, starting in December 2010. The demonstrations and uprisings have resulted in new democratic governments and major reforms in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. Confounding many in the U.S. government, this march toward democracy took place without being prompted by American bombs.
Bunga Bunga (adj.) Describes the booze-and-underage-prostitute-filled sex parties thrown by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Colloquially, used to refer to any instance in which creepy old men leer at barely-legal women.
Cloud, The (n.) In 2011, used to describe the act of storing computer data in a central location instead of on individual users’ hard drives. Usage: Hey Trevor, did you lose your music library when you spilled your latte on your MacBook Air? No, all my music is stored in the cloud.
Cranky Mood Diet, The (n.) Also known as the Dukan Diet, this protein-based weight-loss regimen was made famous by Kate Middleton in the weeks before her marriage to Prince William. However, many women who tried the diet claimed that although they lost pounds, they became uncontrollable beasts due to wildly fluctuating hormones.
Debt Ceiling, The (n.) Used as a bargaining chip in budgetary talks to make sure that poor people didn’t get any assistance and rich people didn’t have to pay taxes. See also: U.S. credit rating downgrade.
Double-Dip (adj.) Metaphorical description of the current recession, which economists have estimated will get worse again before it gets better. See also: Bailout, Austerity
1. (n.) The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which suffered a series of reactor meltdowns and equipment failures after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
2. (adj.) An expression of hopelessness, a foregone conclusion. As in, “This economy is totally fukushima’ed.”
Gaddafi/Ghaddafi/Khaddafy/Khadhafi (n.) The melty-faced former ruler of Libya.
Geolocation (n.) A new feature of many new cellular phone apps, wherein the program gathers and stores the user’s location data via GPS and transfers it to central servers, where it’s studied for ad targeting as well as government surveillance purposes, presumably.
Irene, Hurricane (n.) A storm that was scheduled to demolish New York City on August 27, but never materialized, leaving millions of New Yorkers with excess duct tape and plastic sheeting.
Lockout (n.) In 2011, both the NFL and the NBA experienced lockouts arising from disputes over salaries between players and owners. Half of Americans bemoaned one or both lockouts as the worst thing to happen this year, while the other half was not even aware that either one was happening.
Occupy (v.) As in Occupy Wall Street, the year’s most dominant social protest movement. Depending on your point of view, the Occupiers are either heroes standing up for the middle class or lazy hippies who need to get a damn job.
Planking (v.) See: Dumb trends of 2011.
SEAL Team Six (n.) The group of badass elite Navy SEALs who killed Osama Bin Laden in his Pakistani porn den. In a totally patriotic and not-shameless move, Disney attempted to trademark the name “SEAL Team Six” for use in movies and merchandising.
Snowpocalypse (n.) One of a series of natural, expected, and totally normal seasonal weather occurrences on the East Coast, portrayed by the media to be an unprecedented disaster. See also: Heatpocalypse ’11, Snowpocalypse ’10, Heatpocalypse ’10, Aflockalypse.
Tablet (n.) New handheld computing device, ushered in by the Apple iPad. Heralded by geeks as a momentous breakthrough in personal computing; heralded by thieves as an awesome new thing to steal.
Tiger Mom (n.) Refers to a mother (usually of Asian or South Asian ancestry) who pushes her offspring to the brink of insanity by demanding perfect grades and academic achievement. Superior to all other kinds of mothers, who invariably breed lazy, entitled roustabouts.
Winning (v.) Used, often ironically, to affirm that the speaker’s choices and decisions are generating positive results. Usage: Turns out Timmy isn’t really my kid, so no more child support payments! Winning! See also: Losing.
Photo source: Horia Varlan (cc)