Word of the Year

It’s the end of the year and “best of lists” are everywhere. So why shouldn’t there be a “best word”? Perhaps it’s the word we used the most or talked about the most, looked up the most or thought about the most. Maybe it’s the word that defines us or the events of 2011 the most. Let’s see what the experts are saying.

According to NPR’s word maven, Geoff Nunberg, that word is occupy. He says that “the magic of metonymy [the name of one thing is used in place of another that is associated with it dictionary.com] helped propel the word ‘occupy’ into the global consciousness … scan the thousands of hashtags and Facebook pages that begin with the word: Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Slovakia. Occupy Saskatoon, Sesame Street … .”

Determined by the volume of user look-ups, Merriam-Webster chose pragmatic, “relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters: practical as opposed to idealistic … an admirable quality that people value in themselves and wish for in others, especially in their leaders … .”

Occupy is also being considered by the American Dialect Society, whose annual choice (to be announced January 6) is a word or phrase that members consider “widely used, demonstrably new or popular and reflects the year’s popular discourse … ‘occupy’ is getting a lot of buzz.” Stay tuned.

Lastly, the choice made by dictionary.com, tergiversate, “…a word that aptly defines the spirit of 2011, even if the choice is obscure.” Pronounced ter-JIV-er-sate and derived from the Latin word ‘vertere,’ to turn, it means to change one’s attitude or opinions repeatedly; equivocate. From their Hot Word blog: “The stock market, politicians and even public opinion polls have tergiversated all year long.” And it cites examples of where it showed up in The Times of London, the Baltimore Sun, and the New Yorker.

OK. We’ve consulted the experts and here’s what we think:

Occupy. And the Word Oscar goes to … . It’s been everywhere. You’d have to be living under a rock to be unaware of it. No question that it’s an important word in 2011. But will it last? Could it be that it will soon enter that area known as overuse? Personally, I’m so over it.

Pragmatic. Certainly the need to be pragmatic has been on people’s minds this year. But was it a game changer? Was it prevalent in conversations or in the news? Not so much. And as pragmatic as I need to be, I am as idealistic as I want to be.

Tergiversate. Say wha?

Shouldn’t the word of the year be something that we currently use and will continue to use? A word we understand. A word that resonates mightily in our lives. At least for the majority of us. Maybe for all of us. One word fits that description.

Economy. [1. thrifty management; frugality in the expenditure or consumption of money, materials, etc. 2. an act or means of thrifty saving 3. the management of the resources of a community, country 4. the prosperity or earnings of a place 5. an organized system or method. dictionary.com] As in “It’s the economy, stupid,”( James Carville 1992) again. It was relevant then and it echoes even louder now. According to the Pew Research Center, “For all of 2011, the economy made up 20% of the space studied in newspapers and online and time on television and radio news … .” That it was the #1 topic on our minds all year would be hard to argue.

A toast to the new year to come – with new words and maybe new meanings for some old ones!


  1. Really interesting words for 2011. Occupy and economy are ones I’ll remember. I bookmarked your blog!

  2. Couldn’t have said it any better myself! I look forward to future posts!

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