Literally. Because of Joe Biden. Because of Rob Lowe. Because word-nerds agree even as they disagree: The use of literally is technically acceptable as hyperbole, contrary to popular belief, and yet, you may be criticized for it, and that's just how the semantic world turns. Literally. We think.
Love Pentagon. Mostly because it's classier than Call of Booty.
Malarkey. Another Bidenism, because, friends, it's fun, you know, or at the very least, a bunch of stuff.
Moist. Word of the year, or word of the decade? Moist goes down in history as one of the most hated words of all time, now and forever, and that lends it a certain gravitas, no? We like it like we like our brownies.
Portmanteau. This thing we do with our words, it's come to our attention in particular this year. Skort, craptastic, spork, frenemy, gaydar, meme-ories, jeggings, feminazi, brunch, and even motel, they're all portmanteaus, with fresh ones made daily at Ye Olde Portmanteau Shoppe, aka, the Internet. It's a grammatical meme, a grammeme. In 2012, everybody was portmanteauing.
Pragmatic. We're stealing this one from Merriam-Webster. It's the most frequently looked-up word on the dictionary site over the last four months, which means it has a pretty good chance of being the most looked-up word of the year. (Close on its heels is disposition.) It was WOTY last year for M-W.com, receiving "an unprecedented number of user lookups throughout 2011" on the site. Sokolowski told me, "Some words become really commonly looked up and stay there—some words truly become background radiation by virtue of being consistent sources of vocabulary curiosity—so we may wish to measure those words that have increased year-on-year."
Très Brooklyn. More an expression than a word, this one was printed in the New York Times thanks to writer Julia Moskin, who heard it used among foodie-Parisians to designate their acceptance for hipster-style food trucks and the delicious vittles they contained. Others denied it as a thing, still others came to its defense, and so on and so forth, with the end result its ominous spread across the Internet, much like the overflowing Gowanus Canal. Oui.
Semi-colon. Punctuation was huge this year! Let's shout out not the overused exclamation point, but instead, that languid, mysterious grammatical beast, the one that comprises both comma and period. It seems to say something, this punctuation, this word, and so, we nominate it for candidacy in the word of the year set of contenders, even if it's a not a word at all. And yet, it is. Semi-colon, you slay us.
Underbrag. The humblebrag is so 2011, and the brag brag was never really in style, so the underbrag is our new brag. It's a new word. It's a zeitgeist. It's, oh God, ironic. As I wrote in August, "The irony of the underbrag is that it shouldn't BE a brag. It's a terrible brag, the un-brag, not really a brag at all—except for the fact that the underbragger is bragging about it and therefore changing the rules of bragging as we know them." I nominate this coinage of undercover bragging for the #woty—and not just because I made it up (that's a brag brag, for the record).
Whom. Because sometimes we want to look back and remember, and sometimes, no matter how we rush toward change, we simply must hold onto things for the future. We need you, whom. Hang in there.
Zozzled. It means drunk, 1920s-style. YOLO?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.