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What’s the Word?

Published: December 26, 2009

What does the word of the year or decade mean to you?

The American Dialect Society (ADS) and similar organizations have been accepting nominations or using quantitative data to determine the 2009 “word of the year” as well as the “word of the decade” for 2000-2009.

The selected words, however, represent more than a dictionary definition. They characterize the evolution of our language and speak for our culutre. In 1990, the ADS listed “notebook PC” as the word most likely to succeed. It’s no wonder then, that candidates for this year include terms specific to online social networking.

The New Oxford American Dictionary named its word of the year for 2009—”unfriend”—a term which refers to removing a friend from a social networking site such as Facebook.

The Global Language Monitor (GLM), which tracks the frequency of words and phrases in print and electronic media, named “Twitter,” the ability to encapsulate human thought in 140 characters or fewer on the popular communication site Twitter.com, as the Top Word of 2009.

In addition to social trends, other top-contending words mirror a year’s worth of economic conditions, with runners-up including foreclosure, unemployed, healthcare, deficit, and stimulus—according the GLM.

In other words, it’s amazing to think how much we can say about our society in one word. What would you cast as word of the year? How about for the decade?

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  • Juliet Corbett-Jones

    ‘Muddled’ would be my word. I live in the UK, and nothing seems to make any sense either here or abroad.

  • Frank James Davis

    Don’t have a word for the year, but I firmly believe that “inflation” is destined to be word of the decade.

  • B. Radley

    “Diploma” for us graduates!

  • Diana Denny

    “Miracle.” Sad that it’s nothing short of a miracle for a black man to become the US President, but that is the case. It certainly was a miracle for a plane to have landed in the Hudson River and ALL 155 PASSENGERS AND CREW made it! It was a miracle that a plain, middle-aged Scottish woman knocked our socks off with her voice. But we must view both sides of the coin: it is a miracle if you’re unemployed right now and actually find a job and it will be nothing short of a miracle to actually do something with our insane healthcare system. But as we’ve see, miracles do happen!

  • I. J. Arthur

    I’m nominating “Reform.” It’s the 2009 version of 2008’s big hit “Change.”