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13 Words of the Year from Other Countries

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You've heard about selfie, science, and because. But we aren't the only ones who like to try to capture the spirit of the year in a word. Here are some Words of the Year chosen by 13 other countries.

1. Sakte-tv, Norway

The Language Council in Norway chose sakte-tv (slow-TV), reflecting the popularity of shows like "National Wood Fire Night," a four hour discussion of firewood followed by an eight hour broadcast of a crackling fire. Some of the good competitors were rekkeviddeangst (range anxiety)—the fear that the battery of your electric car will run out before you can get to a charging station—and revelyd (fox sound) because, of course, Ylvis.

2. Gubbploga, Sweden

The Swedish Language Council takes an egalitarian, Swedish approach to the word of the year, releasing a list of the year's new Swedish words without declaring a winner. I like the sound of gubbploga (old man plowing), which refers to criticism of snow plowing priorities that put male-dominated workplace routes over bus and bike lanes and schools. Another good one was nagelprotest (nail protest) for the practice of painting your nails in the name of a cause—for instance, getting a rainbow manicure as a statement against Russian anti-gay laws.

3. Undskyld, Denmark

A member of the Danish Language Council, along with the hosts of the "Language Laboratory" radio show, chose undskyld (sorry) as Word of the Year, making specific reference to the apology a politician had to make after his luxury travel expenses were revealed. It won out over some familiar choices like twerk, selfie, and lårhul (thigh gap) but also gastroseksuel (gastrosexual, for food lovers) and kønskrans ("gender wreath"), a proposed substitute for jomfruhinde (hymen, or "virgin barrier").

4. GroKo, Germany

GroKo is short for Große Koalition (Grand Coalition), an agreement between the conservative and center-left political parties in the German parliament that was hammered out over a long period of negotiation. It suggests the word Kroko, meaning Crocodile, which according to the Word of the Year judges at the Association for the German Language, captures a half-mocking attitude toward the whole negotiation process. It beat out big data, Protz-Bischof (bling bishop, referring to a scandal in which a bishop spent millions on new digs), and freund hört mit (friends are listening), a play on the Nazis' wartime anti-spy slogan "feind hört mit" (enemies are listening), referring to revelations about NSA surveillance.

5. Selfie, Netherlands

Selfie was the Dutch Word of the Year in the Netherlands, according to dictionary publisher Van Dale. Twerken won the Youth Language category, and scheefwerken (skewed work) won the Lifestyle category. It means work that's below one's training or experience level, something a lot of people have had to settle for in recent years. Winners in other categories included some good Dutch compounds like hooliganheffing (proposed hooligan tax on soccer clubs to pay to offset police workload during games) and participatiesamenleving (participatory society).

6. Selfie, Belgium

Selfie also won for Belgium, even though it isn't a very Flemish word. Nor is swag, the winner in the Youth Language category, or duckface, the winner in Lifestyle.

7. Escrache, Spain

In Spain, the newspaper El Mundo named an importation from South America, escrache, the Word of the Year. It refers to a protest against corruption where people gather to denounce a politician or public figure outside their home or workplace. It comes from the Argentinian verb escrachar (publicly expose) and was first used during investigation of the crimes of the dictatorship there. It was used in Spain this year to refer to protests having to do with the mortgage crisis. The economic crisis was reflected in many of the other candidates, such as copago (copayment for access to public health care), quita ("remove" in the context of debt forgiveness), and austericidio (austericide, or suicide by austerity). It wasn't all doom and gloom. Selfie made the list there too, but in Spanish it's autofoto.

8. Bombeiro, Portugal

A poll by publisher Porto Editora selected bombeiro (firefighter) as the Word of the Year. It honors the firefighters who had to battle the raging wildfires that consumed forests in southern Portugal over the summer.

9. Plénior, France

Plénior was selected at the XYZ Festival of New Words in Le Havre. It refers to a senior who's living life to the fullest, a blend of pleine (full) and senior. The way it puts an enthusiastic, positive spin on things doesn't seem very French, but good for you, plénoirs! Enjoy yourselves!

10. Fáng 房, China

In China, a group of government organizations choose the Character of the Year. This year's choice was fáng 房, which occurs in words having to do with housing. Appropriate for a year in which a housing crisis and a real estate bubble factored prominently.

11. Mái 霾, Singapore

In the poll conducted by Lianhe Zaobao, the Chinese language newspaper in Singapore, the word mái 霾, meaning haze, won with 130,000 votes, beating out words like tān 贪 (greed) and wǎng 网 (internet). Some of the highest pollution levels ever recorded occurred there this year. When there's more haze around you than either greed or internet, you know you're in trouble.

12. Jiǎ 假, Taiwan

The winner of a poll by the Taiwanese newspaper United Daily News was jiǎ 假 (fake), inspired by frequent news about fake products and food safety scandals.

13. Rin 輪, Japan

The Kanji of the Year contest is sponsored by the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society. This year's winner was rin (or wa) 輪. The character means “ring” and is used in the word for the Olympic Games, gorin 五輪 (literally, “five rings”). The main reason for this choice was the selection of Tokyo as host of the 2020 Summer Olympics. But a number of other reasons were cited, including the hope that the “'circle of support' for the recovery of areas impacted by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami will expand."

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Live Smarter
Including Smiley Emojis in Your Work Emails Could Make You Look Incompetent
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If you’re looking to give your dry work emails some personality, sprinkling in emojis may not be the smartest strategy. As Mashable reports, smiley emojis in professional correspondences rarely convey the sentiments of warmth that were intended. But they do make the sender come across as incompetent, according to new research.

For their paper titled "The Dark Side of a Smiley," researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel looked at 549 subjects from 29 countries. After reading emails related to professional matters, participants were asked to judge the "competence and warmth" of the anonymous sender.

Emails that featured a smiley face were found to have a "negative effect on the perception of competence." That anti-emoji bias led readers to view the actual content of those emails as less focused and less detailed than the messages that didn’t include emojis.

Previous research has shown that sending emojis to people you’re not 100 percent comfortable with is always a gamble. That’s because unlike words or facial expressions, which are usually clear in their meanings, the pictographs we shoot back and forth with our phones tend to be ambiguous. One study published last year shows that the same emoji can be interpreted as either positive or negative, depending on the smartphone platform on which it appears.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to communicate effectively without leaning on emojis to make you look human. Here are some etiquette tips for making your work emails sound clear and competent.

[h/t Mashable]

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9 Sweet Old Words for Bitter Tastes and Taunts
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Whether you’re enjoying the sharp taste of an IPA or disliking some nasty words from a colleague, it’s hard not to talk about bitterness. But we could all use a few new—or old—terms for this all-too-common concept. So let’s dig into the history of English to find a few words fit to describe barbs and rhubarbs.


Have you ever spoken with bile and gall? If so, you’ll understand why stomachous is also a word describing bitterness, especially bitter words and feelings. This is an angry word to describe spiteful outbursts that come when you’ve had a bellyful of something. In The Faerie Queen, Edmond Spencer used the term, describing those who, “With sterne lookes, and stomachous disdaine, Gaue signes of grudge and discontentment vaine." You can also say someone is “stomachously angry,” a level of anger requiring a handful of antacids.


Artemisia absinthium (wormwood) is the patron plant of bitterness, which has made wormwood synonymous with the concept. Since at least the 1500s, that has included wormwood being used as an adjective. Shakespeare used the term in this way: “Thy secret pleasure turnes to open shame ... Thy sugred tongue to bitter wormwood tast.” George Parsons Lathrop reinforced this meaning in 1895 via the bitterness of regret, describing “the wormwood memories of wrongs in the past.” Unsurprisingly, some beers are brewed with wormwood to add bitterness, like Storm Wormwood IPA.


The earliest uses of brinish are waterlogged, referring to saltiness of the sea. The term then shifted to tears and then more general bitterness. Samuel Hieron used it in his 1620 book Works: “These brinish inuectiues are vnsauory” [sic]. Nothing can ruin your day quite like brinish invective.


Crabby is a popular word for moods that are, shall we say, not reminiscent of puppies and rainbows. Crabbed has likewise been used to describe people in ways that aren’t flattering to the crab community. The Oxford English Dictionary’s etymological note is amusing: “The primary reference was to the crooked or wayward gait of the crustacean, and the contradictory, perverse, and fractious disposition which this expressed.” This led to a variety of meanings running the gamut from perverse to combative to irritable—so bitter fits right in. Since the 1400s, crabbed has sometimes referred to tastes and other things that are closer to a triple IPA than a chocolate cookie. OED examples of “crabbed supper” and “crabbed entertainment” both sound displeasing to the stomach.


This word, found in English since the 1600s, is mainly a literary term suggesting wormwood in its early uses; later, it started applying to the green alcohol that is bitter and often illegal. A 1635 couplet from poet Thomas Randolph sounds like sound dietary advice: “Best Physique then, when gall with sugar meets, Tempring Absinthian bitternesse with sweets.” A later use, from 1882 by poet Egbert Martin, makes a more spiritual recommendation: “Prayer can empty life's absinthian gall, Rest and peace and quiet wait its call.”


Now here’s a bizarre, and rare, twist on a common word. Though we’re most familiar with rodents as the nasty rats digging through your garbage and the adorable hamsters spinning in a wheel, this term has occasionally been an adjective. Though later uses apply to corrosiveness and literal rodents, the earliest known example refers to bitterness. A medical example from 1633, referring to the bodily humors, shows how this odd term was used: “They offend in quality, being too hot, or too cold, or too sharp, and rodent.”


The first uses of nippit, found in the 1500s, refer to scarcity, which may be because this is a variation of nipped. In the 1800s, the term spread to miserliness and narrow-mindedness, and from there to more general bitterness. OED examples describe “nippit words” and people who are “mean or nippit.”


This marvelous word first referred to physical and mental quickness. A “snell remark” showed a quick wit. But that keenness spread to a different sort of sharpness: the severity or crispness of bitter weather. An 1822 use from Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine uses this sense: “The wintry air is snell and keen.”


The Latinate term for bitterness and harshness of various sorts appears in José Francisco de Isla's 1772 book The History of the Famous Preacher Friar Gerund de Campazas, describing some non-sweet folks: "Some so tetrical, so cross-grained, and of so corrupt a taste." A similar meaning is shared by the also-rare terms tetric, tetricity, tetricious, and tetritude. Thankfully, there is no relation to the sweet game of Tetris.


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