Word Play: Quietly’s word of the year nominations

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—the time of year when everyone starts making lists (if they haven’t been already). As December and the new year approaches, there will be plenty of content on and off the web reflecting upon the year. The “100 best characters on TV” or the “Worst blunders this election season.” You get the idea. Often enough, it’s the “Best/worst/most important word of the year” that grabs our attention the most.

Picking out a word of the year is universal for that culture and anyone who speaks that language. Not only is it a fun reflection on the year, but also an important reminder of how language evolves. Language was not hardwired into our ancestors’ brains but instead developed from multiple circuits. Noam Chomsky’s celebrated and pioneering theory holds that language is a product of dedicated mechanisms in the human brain, like switches corresponding to forms of grammar, syntax, and structure. There are several theories of linguistics and the evolution of language, and this TED-Ed breaks down why it is so complicated.

The obsession with language permeates through every culture because language is culture. Or culture is language (it’s a chicken-and-egg crisis). That’s why the end of the year (a great time for making lists), can be so much fun. Publishers, content creators, and everyone in between are offering their two cents about the most important words of the year. How do you determine this without being a linguist? The best way is to look to some trusted sources.

To determine the Oxford English Dictionaries Word of the Year, the Oxford Dictionary New Monitor Corpus collects data each month around the 150 million words used in current English. Coordinating with dictionary editors, blogs, social media, the editorial and publicity staff, and lexicographers, the OED decides a UK and US word of the year. Sometimes, it is the same word. This year’s lucky UK winner is “vape” defined as:

n. An electronic cigarette or similar device.

v. Inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.

It beat out other finalists like finalists “normcore,” “bae,” and “indyref” (which refers to the hashtag used on social media for the Scottish independence referendum).

Then, there are the words no one wants to hear again (I can’t even). TIME recently got plenty of flack for including “feminist” in their online poll of which words should be banned along with the likes of “kale,” “sorry not sorry,” “basic,” “bossy,” “obvi,” and “said no one ever.”

In light of this, we’ve decided to also create a pool of word of the year nominations that best describe the year in tech and publishing. What words do you think should be nominated for Quietly’s word of the year? Which word should be banned from our vocabulary altogether? (Hint: it’s not likely to be feminist.) Reach out to us at our Twitter or Facebook to make suggestions.

Voting and submissions end on Friday, December 12.

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