Newly minted or newly popular words and phrases showcase the key social, economic, technological and cultural trends that have impacted the general consciousness. Twelve months ago the words of the year included ‘Arab spring’, ‘Occupy’ and ‘The 99 per cent’. A number of analysts and commentators have now chosen their words of 2012.
In the UK ‘omnishambles’ was coined by the writers of the political satire TV show ‘The Thick of It’. Used by the foul-mouthed protagonist, it summed up a shambolic political situation and – in an example of life imitating art – was taken up in 2012 by ‘real’ politicians in the UK. It was also briefly amended in the UK to ‘Romneyshambles’ after US-Presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed doubt as to London’s capability to host the Olympic Games.
Omnishambles was chosen as word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries, which chose the verb ‘gif’ as the US word of the year.
In France, two words of the year emerged – ‘Watture’ (an electric car) and ‘Twitter’. The German word of the year was ‘Rettungsroutine’, which literally translates as ‘rescue routine’ and is used in the context of financial bailout. ‘Austerity’ appeared on other lists.
Over on his Web of Language blog, Dennis Baron of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign chose ‘#hashtag’ (complete with its own hashtag!). The American Dialect Society agreed. It has chosen a tech word in three of the last four years (‘occupy’ won last year).
Cambridge Dictionaries and Collins Dictionary couldn’t contain themselves and chose 12 words of 2012, including ‘Gangnam Style’, ‘superstorm’ and ‘Frankenstorm’ (both relating to Hurricane Sandy). Also making appearances in the lists were ‘Big Data’ and the rather lovely ‘automagically’.
Several words, although not ‘technological’ in themselves have achieved popularity because of their high profile on social media. Gangnam Style achieved international fame via the most-viewed YouTube video.