The word of the year tradition began with the American Dialect Society, which has just held its annual Word of the Year vote for the 27th time. A group that includes linguists, lexicographers, editors, students, and independent scholars gathered in a crowded conference to vote the old-fashioned way, by raised hand, for the vocabulary items (which can include words, phrases, hashtags, and emojis) that capture the zeitgeist of 2016 in a variety of categories. Here are a few of the choices.
1. DUMPSTER FIRE // OVERALL WINNER
Defined as an “exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation,” this was the winner for word of the year. Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society and language columnist for The Wall Street Journal, said, “In pessimistic times, dumpster fire served as a darkly humorous summation of how many viewed the year’s events.”
2. POST-TRUTH // POLITICAL WORD OF THE YEAR
The election put so many political words in play this year a category was created for it. Post-truth won, beating other choices like deplorables and nasty woman.
3. WOKE // SLANG WORD OF THE YEAR
In the category of slang, woke, meaning “socially aware or enlightened” beat receipts (“proof, as in ‘show me the receipts’”) in a runoff.
4. LAISSEZ-FAIRYDUST // MOST CREATIVE
Laissez-fairydust is defined as the “magical effect brought upon by laissez-faire economics.” In the Most Creative category, it just edged out the –exit ending from coinages like Brexit, Calexit, Brangelexit, etc.
5. FIRE EMOJI // EMOJI OF THE YEAR
The fire emoji is used to mean “lit” or exciting. It also participates in the emoji version of the Word of the Year choice, which looks like this: