2011 Words of the Year

Words of the Year

Looking to expand your palaver?  Is that word-of-the-day calendar about as blasé as last night's meatloaf?

Well, we've got just the thing to pump up those vernacular vitals.  That's right, the 2011 words of the year are in (cue the vocab fetishists).  Yes, you too can do that thing where you slip an irregular word into casual conversation over PBRs to make your friends leery of your intellect.

"How can you guys like the new Radiohead album?  I found it sooooooooooooooooo meretricious!"

First up, we've got Oxford Dictionaries with their official selection: 

squeezed middle - a term introduced by British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, describing the financial pinch felt by the middle class.

And before you get your undergarments in a whirling dervish of ire, Oxford is well aware that their selection is actually two words.  They'd like to remind the public that a two-word expression is called a 'compound' and is treated as one word [a 'headword'] in the dictionary. This is not the first time that a two-word expression has been selected as our WOTY. In 2010, the UK Word of the Year was 'big society.'

Other notables include: 

Bunga bunga (noun): used in reference to parties hosted by the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, at which various illicit sexual activities were alleged to have taken place.

Clicktivism (noun): the use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause. [Blend of 'click' and 'activism']

The 99 percent: the bottom 99% of income earners, regarded collectively.

Dictionary.com went in a more traditional direction, choosing a word instead of a term, and boy, does it sound dirty.

tergiversate (verb): to change repeatedly one's attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate.

Sounds like the perfect word to describe Kutcher's Twitter feed.

So what do we think, LitReactors?  Happy with the results?  And while we're on the subject, what are your favorite obscure words?

www.bungabunga.com is still available if anyone wants to buy the domain.  Just sayin'.

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Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz November 30, 2011 - 1:15pm


Nice article. Love me some words. Undergarments in a whirling dervish of ire got me laughing. So gettin' all plagiary on that one.

I'm a big fan of Portmanteau--fusion words like rockumentary and malware. German language capitalizes on these to no end. Lewis Carroll converted the word himself from french to describe the words he was fusing together to create new ones. Words like galumph (gallop and triumph) and frumious (fuming and furious).

Some recent concoctions from authors you might have heard of:


Batholith- used by Vanessa Veselka to describe a Bed, Bath and Beyond in her prescient book Zazen.

Hurtpleasure- one of Lidia Yuknavitch's examples in The Chronology of Water, Yuknavitch creates a lot of great portmanteau with her linguistic bending and melding.

Now I'm off to the to have a sexcapade (sex+escapade) with the cybrarian (cyber+librarian). I hope I don't forget my good netiquette (net+etiquette).



Joshua Chaplinsky's picture
Joshua Chaplinsky from New York is reading a lot more during the quarantine November 30, 2011 - 2:04pm

I love combining existing words to make new words. It's all part of the fun of writing.

And you hit the nail on the head, Brandon. King of Limbs is totally meretricious.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break November 30, 2011 - 2:29pm

I did that for you because I know you hated it.

rmalis's picture
rmalis from Pittsburgh, PA is reading The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach December 1, 2011 - 8:47am

I was listening to Adam Corolla's podcasts and he talked about a word that Albert Brooks said to him: compusult - a complement that comes out as an insult.

Ann Gerasimova's picture
Ann Gerasimova from Belarus is reading Paulo Coelho "Aleph" December 3, 2011 - 1:03am

thanks for the article! 

As I'm not a native speaker of English, it's still hard for me to write in it. But I think my teachers will be immensely impressed If I use any of the words described above)