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Words

Jan 25, 2016

From 'Captain's call' to 'refugiado': WOTY 2015

It's that time of year again. Linguists and wordsmiths the world over have come together to decree which word(s) should be given the top honour and crowned 'Word of the Year 2015'. Not everybody decides on the same one though, so here at Fully Sic we've collated a list for all your word-loving needs.

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Macquarie Dictionary doffed its hat to Tony Abbott when it chose captain’s call as WOTY 2015 last week, defining it as ‘a decision made by a political or business leader without consultation with colleagues’. Honourable mentions went to lumbersexual ‘an urban male who wishes to associate himself by his appearance with a rugged outdoors way of life, as by wearing outdoor clothes such as check shirts, jeans and large boots combined with a beard as typical of a lumberjack’ and deso ‘designated driver’. You can vote for the people’s choice award here from 21-31 January.

Past Fully Sic contributor and word nerd extraordinaire David Astle predicted the Macquarie WOTY would be deso and also shone a light on lumbersexual, amongst others, when he spoke to the ABC. Others he highlighted included gender-neutral title Mx and manspreading (‘men taking up too much space on public transport when they spread their legs and encroaches on other people’s space’).

Collins Dictionary bestowed the honour on binge-watch. Something we’ve all been guilty of at one point or another (All 3 seasons of OITNB at once, anyone? Don’t mind if I do!). Other contenders included clean eating, dadbod, ghosting, swipe, contactless, manspreading, shaming, and transgender.

Oxford Dictionaries anointed the first ever emoji: 😂, causing a great scandal among many. Claims abound that it wasn’t a real word – or a word at all. However, previous competitions have granted WOTY status to the heart emoji (❤️) and  a hashtag (#blacklivesmatter) so there’s definitely a precedent that’s been setOther contenders in the Oxford Dictionaries competition: sharing economy, refugee, they, on fleek, ad blocker, Brexit, Dark Web, and lumbersexual.

The American Dialect Society awarded WOTY status to singular they. It also took out their ‘most useful’ category. ‘Most unnecessary’ went to manbun ‘man’s hairstyle pulled up in a bun’ and ‘most euphemistic’ went to Netflix and chill (‘sexual come-on masked as a suggestion to watch Netflix and relax’). ‘Most notable emoji’ went to 🍆. Their choice of singular they follows on from Dennis Baron who decided upon the same WOTY several months ago.

Dictionary.com awarded identity with the top honour, reflecting the many events that occurred in 2015 that demonstrated changing attitudes towards race, gender, and sexuality.

Australian National Dictionary Centre chose sharing economy. Other contenders included dark web, lawfare, marriage equality, and periscope (a streaming app that allows users to upload video in real time, not the nautical apparatus).

The Huffington Post chose active shooter, reflecting the prominence of mass shootings in the US.

Global language monitor chose microaggression (‘The brief, everyday exchanges that send mostly unintended derogatory messages to members of various minority groups’). Other contenders included refugee, migrant, affluenza, and trans.

Merriam-Webster followed Oxford Dictionaries in a slightly atypical choice when they chose a suffix, –ism. Many of the most looked up words in their dictionary ended in this handy little suffix (including socialism, fascism, and racism) and accounted for millions of searches throughout the year.  

Linguist Geoff Nunberg chose gig, referring not to musical acts but to short-term employment, reflecting the current state of the US (and global) economy.

Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache (The Society for the German Language) chose Flüchtlinge ‘refugees’ as their Wort des Jahres 2015. The German list of contenders featured a more political bent than other lists. Other contenders included: Je suis Charlie, grexit (Greece’s potential exit from the Eurozone), Wir schaffen das! (‘we can do it’ – Angela Merkel’s slogan in response to the refugee crisis), and Mogel-Motor (‘cheat car’, in response to the VW emissions scandal). A jury from the Universität Darmstadt selected Gutmensch (lit. ‘good people’, denoting someone who is overly politically correct or a do-gooder) as Unwort des Jahres (‘unword/non-word of the year’).

Sjoemelsoftware (‘cheating/tampering software’ – also in reference to the VW emissions scandal) was named Netherlands WOTY by Dutch dictionary group Van Dale and by the Onze Taal Congress. It beat out vluchtelingencrisis (‘refugee crisis’) and veruberisering (literally ‘uberising’, meaning ‘services offered by non-professionals’) amongst others.

Van Dale’s Dutch language winner for Belgium was kraamkost (‘a meal given as a gift to a new mother and her family’). Le Soir chose spoiler for the Belgian French nouveau mot de l’année. A borrowing from English, it is a verb (to give spoilers to a TV series/film/etc), not a noun like it is in English.

The Danish Language Board followed the European trend and gave the title to flygtningestrømme ‘stream of refugees’.

The Spanish WOTY honour went to refugiado ‘refugee’, once again reflecting current events in Europe and across the world.

Afrikaans word of the year was # (the hashtag). 

Dictionary publisher Sanseido Co. gave the Japanese title to jiwaru ‘to grow on you’

A collaboration between National Language Research center, CCTV, and People’s Daily chose the Chinese characters 廉 ‘incorruptibility’ and 恐 ‘terrorism or dread’ for WOTY.

Lake Superior State University in Michigan, USA, takes a more prescriptive approach to the WOTY festivities and publishes a list of ‘banished’ words for the year. This year, their list includes clause-initial so, problematic, break the internet, manspreading, and vape (which was, somewhat ironically, the Oxford Dictionaries WOTY for 2014). Their list is a proscription for the forthcoming year and so is listed under 2016, not 2015  like the others. Marist College also took this less optimistic track and anointed the exclamation whatever as ‘most annoying’ WOTY.

This list is not exhaustive (especially for the words not in English). Let us know if you can add to the list!

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4 comments

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4 thoughts on “From ‘Captain’s call’ to ‘refugiado’: WOTY 2015

  1. Norman Hanscombe

    Clearly the Commissariat Censorship Team had language problems translating Post # 5 into Crikey New-Speak.

  2. Norman Hanscombe

    It’s not autocorrect which damages communication, but the inept un-necessary spawning of useless words when English (if one is adequately educated) is far more than merely adequately endowed with a rich Language treasury.

  3. David Astle

    Thanks for the extraordinaire epithet, though my hot tip on News Breakfast was deso (ultimately Macquarie’s silver medallist) rather than desk.

    Mind you, I’ve taken a shine to the morning version of al-desko dining, better known as deskfast.

    A stellar WOTY wrap.

    1. Fully (sic)

      Ah cursed autocorrect! Will fix it that typo now!

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