Best Words of the Year, Now With Less Palin

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.

Presented by

Joshua Green is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Entertainment

Just In