Beyond Words - Language Blog

American Dialect Society Names ‘Bailout’ Word of the Year for 2008

Founded in 1889, the American Dialect Society is dedicated to the study of the English language in North America, and of other languages, or dialects of other languages, influencing it or influenced by it.

ADS members are linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, historians, grammarians, academics, editors, writers, and independent scholars in the fields of English, foreign languages, and other disciplines. The society also publishes the quarterly journal American Speech.

Every year, American Dialect Society members vote for their picks for Words of the Year in several different categories. Here are their results for the year 2008:

The number after each nomination is the number of votes it received. Numbers separated by slash marks indicate a run-off. Voting totals are for each category and might not be identical because the number of voters might have changed for each category.


Bailout: the rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry. 37/74

Other nominees for Word of the Year:

Barack Obama: Both names as combining forms in a large number of new words. A combining form is a word or part of a word that can be used as the root or basis of other words. 28/43

lipstick on a pig: An adornment of something that can’t be made pretty. 16

change: Not so much a buzzword as political wallpaper, background noise, and ambient energy rolled into one. The idea of discarding old ideas and methods seemed to underlie everything said by national political candidates. 14

shovel-ready: Used to describe infrastructure projects that can be started quickly when funds become available 5

game-changer: In business and politics, something that alters the nature of a marketplace, relationship, or campaign. From sports ‘something that changes a match or contest.’ 2


WINNER: recombobulation area: An area at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee in which passengers that have just passed through security screening can get their clothes and belongings back in order. 94

long photo: A video of 90 seconds or less. Used by the photo-sharing web site Flickr. 5

skadoosh: A nonsense interjection popularized by Jack Black in the movie Kung Fu Panda. 3

rofflenui: A blended New Zealand English-Maori word that means “rolling on the floor laughing a lot.” 1


WINNER: moofing: From “mobile out of office,” meaning working on the go with a laptop and cell phone. Created by a PR firm. 35/53

First Dude: The husband of a governor or president. 36/43

bromance: A very close relationship between two heterosexual men. 28


WINNER: terrorist fist jab: A knuckle-to-knuckle fist bump, or “dap,” traditionally performed between two people as a sign of friendship, celebration or agreement. It was called the “terrorist fist jab” by the newscaster E. D. Hill, formerly of Fox News. 88

body-snarking: Posting pictures and commenting negatively on the bodies of the people in them. 10

fish pedicure: A cosmetic procedure in which fish eat the dead skin off the feet. 9

baby mama: From a man’s point of view, a woman to whom he is not married and who is the mother of his child. 2


WINNER: scooping technician: A person whose job it is to pick up dog poop. 66
age-doping: The falsification of records to show that an athlete meets participation requirements for a sporting event. 32

thought showers: Coined by a British city council because the synonym “brainstorming” was said to be offensive to epileptics. 11


WINNER: shovel-ready: Used to describe infrastructure projects that can be started quickly when funds become available. 47/76

tweet-, twitt- Combining forms all connoting a relationship to Twitter, a free nano-blogging service. 27/19

Phelpsian: Excellent in the fashion of swimmer Michael Phelps, who won eight medals and set seven world records in the 2008 Summer Olympics. 6

-licious: A suffix which connotes desirability or attractiveness of the thing whose name it is combined with. 1


WINNER: PUMA: An acronym for Party Unity My Ass, used by Democrats who were disaffected after Hillary Clinton failed to secure a sufficient number of delegates. It was later said to stand for Party Unity Means Action. 88

nuke the fridge: To ruin a movie franchise through the arrogance of a successful producer or director. 14

-cation: Suffix connotating “vacation” in blends like mancation, staycation, hurrication, evacucation. 1


WINNER: maverick: A person who is beholden to no one. Widely used by the Republican Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates, John McCain and Sarah Palin. Also in the adjectival form mavericky, used by Tina Fey portraying Palin on Saturday Night Live. 73

lipstick on a pig: An adornment of something that can’t be made pretty. 37

hopey-changey: Derisive epithet incorporating Obama’s two main buzzwords (also dopey hopey changey). 8

hockey mom: A mother who spends a great deal of time and money aggressively abetting her children’s interest in the sport of hockey. 2