Best Words of the Year, Now With Less Palin

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So Oxford University Press has chosen "refudiate" as its "word of the year," which strikes me as a calculated bid for publicity (a successful one, in which I'm now complicit), but I suppose it is a defensible choice on the merits, especially since "ginormous" made it in a few years ago: both are mash-ups of actual words that seem like they ought to be words themselves. And I guess now they are.

My favorite words of the year aren't new coinages so much as new terms or words that have been appropriated to describe new things. (As an added bonus, there is no Palin involved, though I'm sure to pay a steep price in hits). In no particular order they are:

Oxpeckers: Via Tom Scocca at Slate, New York Times editor Bill Keller likened the swarms of young media reporters who cover his every doing to the little birds that pick at the hide of a rhinoceros. This works beautifully on so many levels, including Keller's unstated but surely extant feeling that these guys are a bunch of peckers.

Budget Arsonists: Brad DeLong's wonderful term to connote wild-eyed deficit hawks like Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles who think nothing of slashing entitlement and safety-net programs in the interest of bringing down the deficit--who, in fact, seem to derive joy from doing so.

Climate Hawks: David Roberts of Grist.org decided that people who care a lot about climate change were being miscast as simply "environmentalists"--that term fit some of them, but not all (cleantech investors, evangelicals, military folks)--and he proposed that we need a better word to describe them, one "detached from the limiting sociopolitical associations of environmentalism." What he came up with is brilliant.

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Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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