And The American Dialect Society's Word of the Year for 2016 is....

Earlier I wrote about Merriam-Webster announcing “surreal” as their word of the year. That was fitting but the American Dialect Society has chosen a phrase that is a better descriptor for 2016.


I have to admit, I didn’t know there was such a thing as the American Dialect Society but they’ve been around since 1889. Their website says that they are “dedicated to the study of the English language in North America, and of other languages, or dialects of other languages, influencing it or influenced by it.” Each year the society votes on a word or phrase “of the year.”

2016’s winner is more than appropriate. Dumpster fire.

In its 27th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted for dumpster fire as the Word of the Year for 2016. Defined as “an exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation,” the term dumpster fire was selected as best representing the public discourse and preoccupations of the past year.


Ok, technically it’s two words but that’s in keeping with their standards.

Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item”—not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year.

The vote is the longest-running such vote anywhere, the only one not tied to commercial interests, and the word-of-the-year event up to which all others lead. It is fully informed by the members’ expertise in the study of words, but it is far from a solemn occasion.

Members in the 128-year-old organization include linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, editors, students, and independent scholars. In conducting the vote, they act in fun and do not pretend to be officially inducting words into the English language. Instead, they are highlighting that language change is normal, ongoing, and entertaining.


It’s entertaining when words get “outlawed” by the thought-police, but it is ongoing and normal.

Other nominees included:

  • deplorables (basket of): epithet used by Clinton in speech about Trump supporters
  • cuck, cuckservative: derisive term for mainstream Republicans by alt-right
  • yuuuge: dialect pronunciation of huge used by Trump and Bernie Sanders
  • small/tiny hands: jab at hand size implying other anatomical deficiencies

I wonder if they have ever selected “facepalm” as a word of the year.


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