The only thing more tired than year-end lists is long diatribes about why some critics don't like to do year-end lists. (Excepting, of course, the hilarious and spot-on Top 10 list we published last week in the Stranger. Did you read that? Very funny. I'm still laughing about "Top 10 Surreptitious Vape Crannies in Seattle Clubs of 2015.") Anyway, I'll save you the lecture on why round-ups paralyze me and instead direct your attention to the year-end consideration that excites me the most: the American Dialect Society's "Word of the Year."
During the first week of January, a bunch of word nerds—I mean highly skilled and thoughtful linguists—get together in a city (this year it's Washington, DC) and vote on the newest, most powerful, most ubiquitous, most outrageous words of a given year. It's important to note that "Word of the Year" doesn't have to be a single word. The ADS defines "word" for these purposes as a "vocabulary item." Last year's WOTY, for instance, was #blacklivesmatter. Which, duh.
Aside from the grand prize, there's a few fun categories for particularly useful or particularly unnecessary words. Last year's most useful were "even" (in the sense that sometimes "one just can't") and "budtender" (that really enthusiastic guy at Uncle Ike's). The group didn't think "normcore" was likely to stand the test of time, but they did think "salty" and "basic" might have some staying power. I like looking at the old WOTYs. In 1998, "the entire Monica Lewinsky word family" was deemed the most unnecessary words of the year, which ended up being true. Least likely to succeed that year: "getting jiggy." Also pretty right on.
Looking back at all the other WOTYs gives you a linguistic snapshot of the year in a way that nothing really else can. Language inflects everything we do, from art to politics to computer programming to space travel. It defines characters, embodies movements, frees hearts, breaks minds; means nothing, too much, and not enough. We interact and describe the world through its cool web. And as the world changes rapidly and always, so too do the words we use to describe it.
You can submit your suggestions for WOTY any time to this e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Here are my contenders:
Netflix and Chill — "Yeah, he dressed up as 'Netflix and Chill' for Halloween, so we broke up."
-play — "I'm not really into puppy-play, but I like iced coffee! Can we start there?"
feels — I'm feeling all the feels about people who say *feels* all the time, but they're mean feels. I'm pretty pro-"I feel like," tho.
goals — As in those of the squad.