December 2011

Interview on Minnesota Public Radio’s “Midmorning” about the notable words of 2011. (Dec. 30, 2011)

Each year, the American Dialect Society chooses a word of the year. Lexicographers Grant Barrett and Ben Zimmer join us to discuss the year in words. Based on the American Dialect Society’s criteria what words were demonstrably new or newly popular in 2011?

(Show page, audio, related Word Routes column, Boston Globe column)

Sam Biddle, “How the Hashtag Is Ruining the English Language” (Gizmodo, Dec. 28, 2011)

The hashtag is conceptually out of bounds, being used by computer conformists without rules, sense, or intelligence, a like yknowwwww that now permeates the internet outside of the tweets it was meant to corral. It pervades Facebook, texting, Foursquare—turning into a form of “ironic metadata,” as linguist Ben Zimmer of The Visual Thesaurus labels it.

Read the rest here.

Johnson, the language blog of The Economist, on Word of the Year selections. (Dec. 27, 2011)

It’s also the time of the year when dictionary-writers and lexicographers pick a Word of the Year. I’ve admitted that I’m not a Word of the Day person, nor am I particularly a Word of the Year person, with a polite and apologetic tip of the hat to a Johnson friend, Ben Zimmer, the New Words supremo at the American Dialect Society.

Read the rest here.

Interviewed on CNN Profiles about prominent words of the year. (Dec. 26, 2011)

CNN’s John Lisk talks words with Ben Zimmer, an expert on English linguistics. Which words were most prominently used in 2011? What are the frontrunners for “Word of the Year?”

(Show page, audio)

Amy Rosenberg, “Occupied with the Word of the Year 2011” (Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 26, 2011)

The American Dialect Society, which will announce its 20th annual Word of the Year on Jan. 5, found itself just one in a crowd of word obsessives this year as a formerly obscure venture went mainstream, or at least social media-stream. Words – everyone’s texting and hashtagging them.

“I see a social-media effect in terms of interest in talking about word of the year,” said Ben Zimmer, editor of the Visual Thesaurus and a leading WOTY guy, head of the Dialect Society’s New Words committee (a supercommittee if ever there was one.)

“It’s something that people latch on to. When you look at something like occupy as the front-runner, its success is its ability to be modulated, to fit in different environments. Twitter allows for it to spread quickly, boiling down a complex word or movement.”

Read the rest here.

Interview on WCBS Newsradio about terms for dying, in the wake of the deaths of Kim Jong-Il and Vaclav Havel. (Dec. 22, 2012)

(Show page, related Word Routes column)


H. Samy Alim, “What if We Occupied Language?” (New York Times Opinionator, Dec. 21, 2011)


It is now nearly impossible to hear the word and not think of the Occupy movement.

Even as distinguished an expert as the lexicographer and columnist Ben Zimmer admitted as much this week: “occupy,” he said, is the odds-on favorite to be chosen as the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year.

Read the rest here.

Interviewed by Voice of America (Special English Division) for a live-stream about words of the year and learning English.

Ben Zimmer talks with VOA’s Avi Arditti and Alison Klein about some notable terms of 2011, and answers questions from callers about how to improve their English and get into an American university. (Dec. 21, 2011)

Nancy Messieh, “A Look at How Twitter Continues to Shape the English Language” (The Next Web, Dec. 16, 2011)

Boston Globe’s language columnist, and chair of the ADS’ new words committee, Ben Zimmer, told NPR that the word ‘Occupy’ was most likely this year’s choice. Occupy is ”an old word that has been invested with new meanings” – of course due to the Occupy movement.

Other words that Zimmer mentioned in his NPR interview included Arab Spring, for obvious reasons, bunga bunga, an old phrase once again made popular by former Italian prime minister Berlusconi and his antics, and tiger blood, a hashtag that snagged the number two spot on Twitter’s top 10 hashtags of the year.

A combination of current events and online banter are clearly at the root of this list, and it’s interesting to note Twitter’s influence on the choices.

In fact, one of Zimmer’s own favourites is the phrase, ‘humble brag,’ similar to the idea of First World Problems, but made famous thanks to the many celeb tweets containing self-promotion in a thinly-veiled disguise of humility. There’s even an entire Twitter account dedicated to finding these tweets.

Read the rest here.

Steve Myers, “Hashtags Helped Cement ‘Occupy’ and ‘Winning’ as Memorable Words of 2011” (Poynter, Dec. 16, 2011)

Linguist Ben Zimmer tells NPR’s Renee Montagne that Twitter has helped elevate some of the contenders for word of the year, such as “winning” and “occupy,” which is likely to be the choice of the American Dialect Society. ”These single words can often get a special power on Twitter by being used as hashtags … These hashtags actually end up having the power of slogans or mantras, and really help to spread words and phrases.” One of Zimmer’s favorites, “humblebrag,” has become a common Twitter hashtag after comedian Harris Wittels coined the term. || Earlier:App’ was 2010′s word of the year (Associated Press)