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American Dialect Society Decides on Word of the Year 2016
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American Dialect Society Decides on Word of the Year 2016

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From VOA Learning English, this is the Education Report.

Does a manbun look good on top of a dadbod?

Or would it be a good hairstyle for an ammosexual?

And do you really want your kids to Netflix and chill while you are out?

You can answer that question if you learn about the choices for Word of the Year.

Choosing a Word of the Year

The competition is fierce. Categories include: most useful, most creative, most unnecessary, most outrageous, most euphemistic, most likely to succeed, least likely to succeed, most notable hashtag, and most notable emoji.

Last year, the American Dialect Society or ADS included a new category: most notable hashtag. The hashtag #Blacklivesmatter was the ADS Word of the Year for 2014.

Hashtags are an important part of modern communication, said Ben Zimmer, linguist and Wall Street Journal writer. Zimmer also heads the ADS committee that chooses words for the Word of the Year vote.

“Even though something like #Blacklivesmatter is clearly a few words that are stuck together in the form of a hashtag, it is working as a unit in an interesting way, and it is becoming a kind of a vehicle for expressing political and social ideas,” Zimmer said.

Allan Metcalf, presdent of the American Dialect Society, agreed with the new category for emojis .

“Although they are a kind of pictographic language … you read about them, there are articles about them. And it is pointed out that after all, Chinese for example, when written down, is kind of symbolic. It represents not the sounds, but the images. Everyone agrees that Chinese as a written language, is a language, so I think it fits in perfectly well.”

Here are the winners in some of the categories. We have left out phrases that include profanity. Go to the ADS site to see the complete list.

Most Useful

They: Our previous story announced this top winner, which also won in the most useful category. The definition is “gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, as a non-binary identifier.”

A non-binary identifier is a word that does not show whether an individual is male or female. Many languages have a third-person pronoun that is neutral in this way. English does not.

Microaggression was almost a winner. Microaggression means an indirect form of racism or bias.

Ammosexual was the winner in the most creative category. It refers to a person who likes guns a great deal. This word was used to talk about the people who want to show their guns by carrying them in public or posting photos of themselves with guns in social media.

Manbun was the winner in the most unnecessary category. What is a manbun? It is a man’s long hair pulled up in a bun.

Dadbod was a favorite on social media for some time this year. It refers to the overweight body shape of a typical father. Someone joked, “Dadbod is unnecessary because we also have the word, father figure.” (This joke plays with the word “figure” meaning a body shape as well as a role model.)

“Netflix and chill” won in the most euphemistic category. This is an invitation to have a sexual encounter.

Ghost was the winner in the most likely to succeed category. In this way, it is used as a verb. It means to suddenly end a relationship by cutting off communication, in person or online.

Sitbit and hoverboard competed for least likely to succeed. Sitbit is a play on fitbit, a device that measures how much exercise a person does. Sitbit, instead, rewards an inactive lifestyle.

Among hashtags, the nominations were:

#JeSuisParis: expression of solidarity after the Paris terror attacks

#LoveWins: celebration of Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage

#SayHerName: call to bring attention to police violence against black women.

#StayMadAbby: this makes fun of the plaintiff in a University of Texas affirmative action lawsuit

#StayWoke: exhortation to remain vigilant and informed (used by #BlackLivesMatter movement)

The winner in this category was #SayHerName. Sonja Lanehart, editor of the The Oxford Handbook of African American Language said this hashtag should be chosen because it is a term that criticizes violence against women.

The other new category, MOST Notable Emoji, is new for 2015. The choices were:

😍: heart eyes (romantic, passionate).
😉: winking face (humorous, flirtatious).
💁: information desk person (sassy, sarcastic).
🍆: eggplant (male genitalia, sexual innuendo).
💯: 100 (“keep it 100,” “keep it real”).

The winner in this category is “eggplant” or “purple vegetable.”

What’s in a name? Ask Caitlyn

The American Name Society chose their Names of the Year from these categories: trade names, place names, personal names, and fictional names.

The winners are: Charlie Hebdo, the name of the French satirical weekly magazine that was part of a popular hashtag in support of free speech in France, #jesuischarlie. Terrorists attacked the offices of the magazine in January 2015.

Iman Nick, Ph.D., President of American Name Society
Iman Nick, Ph.D., President of American Name Society

Iman Nick, Ph.D., is president of the American Name Society. She said the choice shows “That a single name can be used as a unifying factor for a political movement. In this particular situation, it is a political movement to support freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”

Denali is the winner in the place name category. It is the new official name given to the Alaskan mountain that was called Mount McKinley. Denali is a Native-American name for the mountain.

The three names Rey, Finn and Poe won in the fictional name category. They are three characters from the movie Star Wars. These names will probably become popular baby names, said one society member.

Caitlyn Jenner won in the personal name category. The Vogue magazine cover showing transgender Jenner was titled, “Call me Caitlyn.” It shows the power of a person deciding to change their name, commented one member of the society.

“What you’ve seen is an individual person who has decided to define the self and doing that in ways that before would have been criminalized,” Nick said.

The overall name of the year for 2015 is … Caitlyn Jenner.

I’m Jill Robbins.

And I'm John Russell.

Now it's your turn. What new word became popular in your country in 2015? What do you think of the choices for the English Word of the Year. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

Dr. Jill Robbins wrote this story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

emoji - n. a small digital image or icon used to express an idea, emotion, etc., in electronic communication

suffix – n. a letter or a group of letters that is added to the end of a word to change its meaning or to form a different word

pictographn. a pictorial symbol for a word or phrase.

transgenderadj. of or relating to people who have a sexual identity that is not clearly male or clearly female

euphemism - n. a mild or pleasant word or phrase that is used instead of one that is unpleasant or offensive

father figuren. an older man who is respected and admired like a father

Now it’s your turn. What new word became popular in your country in 2015? What do you think of the choices for the English Word of the Year? Write to us in the Comments section or on our Facebook page.