You’d expect a “word of the year” to be something special, wouldn’t you? So it’s somewhat disappointing that the American Dialect Society‘s word of the year for 2008 is…drumroll…bailout.
Even Grant Barrett, chair of the society’s New Words Committee, said, “You’d think a room full of pointy-headed intellectuals [those voting are linguists, lexicographers, grammarians, historians, etc.] could come up with something more exciting.” After all, this is the same group who voted in “Plutoed” in 2006, signifying something demoted or devalued, as happened to the former planet.
The words the society chooses don’t have to be new, but they do have to be “newly prominent or notable” or “reflective of the national discourse” over the year. So, yes, bailout certainly was on many lips last year, unfortunately.
Still, I prefer some of the words that came in after the top choice, such as “DWT,” for driving while texting; or “Palinesque,” for those who have extended themselves beyond their expertise; or “scooping technician,” for a person whose job is picking up dog poop. But then, I never ran across any of those terms before, so they likely wouldn’t have reflected the national discourse.
Here’s hoping for a positive, inspirational word for 2009.