December 2009

Amy S. Rosenberg, “Sayings Without Staying Power” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 31, 2009)

It was a year in which words and phrases showed up and got used up in record time. Catchphrases no longer catch on these days, but get bobbled around in everyone’s hands for a nanosecond before dropping for an incomplete pass.
Like a December blizzard, or our hero Cliff Lee, nothing sticks around for long. I’mma let you finish, Kanye, but nobody cares anymore. As the signs at Citizens Bank Park read in the blink-and-it’s-over Cliff Lee era, unbeLEEvable.

Remember the epic-at-the-time beer summit between President Obama, Skip Gates, and some cop? Bud Light, Red Stripe, and a Blue Moon, for posterity.

How about hiking the Appalachian trail? That phrase’s journey from lame but imaginative alibi from South Carolina Adulterer-Governor Mark Sanford to “jocular political euphemism” is cited by Visual Thesaurus exec producer Ben Zimmer in his list of nominations for the always anticipated Word of the Year vote by the American Dialect Society, to be held Jan. 8 in Baltimore.

Read the rest here.

Interview on the WBUR show “Here and Now” about the top words of the year (2009) and the decade (2000-09). (Show page, audio)

Jessica Rettig, “Q&A: The Power of Words” (U.S. News Weekly, Dec. 24, 2009)

How much could one word describe? Possibly a whole decade, says Ben Zimmer of the American Dialect Society, an organization devoted to the study of language in North America.

Read the rest here.