Words, words, words of the year 2012

Word of the Year choices, WOTY, humor, social commentary, lists, wordplay,

If, as Hamlet implies, words are never just words, what do the 2012 Words of the Year say about this year?

Oxford Dictionaries USA
has chosen as its Word of the Year (WOTY) 2012: GIF. In case you’re not clear, that is indeed the Graphics Interchange Format acronym. GIF – verb: to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event).

Celebrating it’s 25th anniversary appears to have given GIF a leg up on the other 2012 WOTY possibilities. What you say? How does that reflect the doings of 2012? I’m still not clear, or convinced.

Here’s Oxford USA’s rationale for its choice.

My rating: F for flat, flop


Oxford Dictionaries UK
however, chose a much more interesting word to roll off the tongue: omnishambles – a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations. That word has heft, and agree or not, appears to represent a year.

Spokesperson Susie Dent explained the decision: “… a word, or expression, that we feel has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date. In the case of omnishambles, we also recognised its linguistic productivity: a notable coinage coming from the word is Romneyshambles, coined in the UK to describe US presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s views on London’s ability to host a successful Olympic Games. Other spin-off terms have been largely humorous or one-off – from Olympishambles… to Toryshambles.”

My rating: B for blue-chip, bang-up


Not odd, but equally as boring as OxUSA is Merriam-Webster’s choice for 2012. In an unusual move, M-W has identified a pairing of two words as the the official WOTY. That’s the more interesting aspect of the story.

Merriam-Webster’s editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, announced that this year, Merriam-Webster broke with precedent and chose two words together, or as he said “a pairing of a kind.” The 2012 words of the year are socialism and capitalism, words “that trended together, that show that when one was looked up, so was the other.”

Again, I ask, how do two generic terms, even when bundled together, define a year? The fact that they are heavily searched terms and trended well says what? I like Joe Biden’s “malarkey” much better. At least it stands for something.

My rating: D for dreary, dull


The online-only Dictionary.com has declared bluster as its choice for 2012’s Word of the Year.

Now, here’s a word. As bluster alludes to both weather and communication – both of which we had in abundance this year given Superstorm Sandy and a national election – I say, great choice for WOTY 2012.

“Obviously the most historical events [this year] were the election, and weather events… [There has been] a remarkable volume of different kinds of bluster across the political and cultural spectrum,” said Jay Schwartz, Dictionary.com’s Head of Content.

My rating: A for attentive, apt


Compare the 2012 WOTY to previous years: 2011, 2010 and 2009. What’s your choice for 2012?

3 Responses to “Words, words, words of the year 2012”

  1. wordmaven Says:

    Keeping with the pairing of words, no dictionary source chose “fiscal cliff?”

  2. Rose Says:

    My rating: A for analogies, alluring.

  3. Janet Giampietro Says:

    Sweet, thank you!!!

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