Tonight in the grand ballrooms of a Boston Marriott, linguists and language experts and word aficionados will gather to vote on the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year. The nominations — at least for the award categories, if not for the big kahuna award — have been made. Between now and 5:30 p.m., when the event begins, all we have to do is consider those words and to wait in suspense. Will the ultimate #WOTY honor go to the much-discussed and much-decried initialism YOLO? Or perhaps to mansplaining, or to the shortlisted fiscal cliff? Will a dark-horse candidate like cray-cray win and surprise us all? Probably not. But anything could happen! Note, per the American Dialect Society, "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."
In advance of tonight's meeting, which is open to the public, the Society has issued a list of nominations for what linguist and language columnist Ben Zimmer, who is chair of the New Words Committee for ADS, calls "the 'lesser' categories": most useful, most likely to succeed, most outrageous, and so on. Regardless of any personal feelings you might have about the words therein, the list itself is a fascinating glimpse into our year in words. As for what to expect tonight, Zimmer tells us, "At the big event, we'll vote for winners in those categories and then open it up for nominations in the main WOTY category. The nominees may come from the various other categories, or they might be new nominations, not on our curent list. (In past years, app and tweet have won WOTY after getting nominated from the floor.)"