January 8th, 2012
12:19 AM ET

Linguists name 'occupy' as 2011's word of the year

The linguists have spoken and they have decided - "Occupy" is 2011's word of the year.

Members of the American Dialect Society came out in record numbers to vote Friday night at the organization's annual conference, held this year in Portland, Oregon.

"Occupy" won a runoff vote by a whopping majority, earning more votes than "FOMO" (an acronym for "Fear of Missing Out," describing anxiety over being inundated by the information on social media) and "the 99%," (those held to be at a financial or political disadvantage to the top moneymakers, the one-percenters).

Occupy joins previous year's winners, "app," "tweet," and "bailout."

"It's a very old word, but over the course of just a few months it took on another life and moved in new and unexpected directions, thanks to a national and global movement," Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee for the American Dialect Society, said in a statement.

The Occupy Wall Street movement began in September in Lower Manhattan, before spreading to communities around the country and the world as a call to action against unequal distribution of wealth and other issues.

Founded in 1889, the American Dialect Society is made up of "academics, linguists, anyone involved in the specialization of language," according to Grant Barrett, the society's vice president.

Barrett, who also co-hosts "A Way with Words," a public radio program about language, said the annual conference provides an opportunity for linguistics professionals and graduate students to share information and research.

But Barrett says the word of the year vote, now in its 22nd year is, "light-hearted and whimsical."

Nominations for the word of the year are submitted by society members in attendance at the annual conference, but can also be submitted by the community at large.

"Occupy" may have taken top honors, but several other words and phrases received recognition.

"Mellencamp," a woman who has aged out of being a "cougar" (after John Cougar Mellencamp), and "kardash," a unit of measurement consisting of 72 days, after the short-lived marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, were both recognized in the "Most Creative" category.

Barrett said many of the nominated words that have significance now likely won't stand the test of time.

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Filed under: U.S. • World
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. hamsta

    Maybe if they would occupy a job the economy would be fixed they would stop complaining and we wouldnt be so tired of hearing the word occupy

    January 8, 2012 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. David A. Brookbank, Jr.

    A large number of people in the US and around the world are not in the least tired of the word "occupy" and in fact intend to continue occupying, protesting, challenging, exposing, denouncing, building, analyzing, and working to create a more just, more equalitarian, more functional, more democratic system. Though the article suggests that the Occupy movement started in the US and spread around the world, in fact it is probably more correct to say that the Occupy movement is the US manifestation of what in Spanish is called the movement of the "Indignados" in Europe and others would say that European movement was an outgrowth of the so-called Arab Spring. What is important is that emperor and his political minions (yes, that is both you Mr. Bush and you too Mr. Obama) are once again naked and exposed for the entire world to see. What is yet to be seen is what the outcome will be this time. What we do know already is that the elites and their politicians and police are willing to attack and even shot people in the streets to suppress this popular movement of the people.

    January 8, 2012 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    Did you mean "egalitarian" when you wrote "equalitarian?"

    January 8, 2012 at 5:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    It's difficult to obtain employment when one doesn't really know the language.

    January 8, 2012 at 5:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©™

    One of my favorite terms in writing is "monkey with a parasol."

    January 8, 2012 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mmmmm

    is this another one of your affirmations considering the parasol is usually a status symbol for deities, elitiststs, and madmen...interesting your selection is a monkey.

    January 8, 2012 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. hamsta

    @david u popular movement of people is just a bunch of homeless jobless moochers that would rather cry no fair and run around committing crime and harassing everyone else than find a job.occupy protestors are amazingly similar to that drunk hobo begging for change.a job app makes them disappear in a flash.

    January 8, 2012 at 7:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jazzy

    Awww, heck! we all know it should be 'facepalm'
    Right Donna?

    January 8, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. fernace

    Many Occupiers are employed & many others simply can't find a job! That's the problem w/ the economy, not enough work to go around for every1! I have spent 2 yrs.filling out applications for fulltime employment, all I'm hired for is temp & part-time! That's 1 thing the Occupy Movement is addressing! Where are the friggin jobs?? Also, the homeless in this nation are humans,too & the homless population has boomed since 2007, when "Hoovervilles" popped up everywhere! We're only as strong as the weakest link & that doesn't bode well for our country! Something must change & I'm glad Occupy is out there trying!They're not just a word!!

    January 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tabitha

    @ hamsta, you seem to be an occupier yourself! Lord knows you occupy the cnn blog site alot with mostly negativity! Are you EVER happy about one damn thing??

    January 8, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. hamsta

    @tabitha ya just as soon as we get rid of this embarassment of a president.why does he keep extending unemployment?i have no problems staying employed and im a high school dropout.i know phds that claim they cant find a job.as someone who has 7 trades under his belt i will tell jobs are everywhere if u cant find one ur either stupid or just dont want a job.bush never had to lead from behind.if we had fought this war like we did ww2 we would have won the war but all the dumbocrats with their political correctness want to be the terrorists friend.and u dont fix debt by borrowing and spending like a junkie looking for a fix.

    January 8, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tabitha

    Maybe the problem isnt so much finding a job as it is supporting a family on slingin fast food! And that is NOT the fault of our current prez! And tough as it is to accept the republicans are NOT offering anyone better, and our CONGRESS sucks!!

    January 8, 2012 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tabitha

    Whoa! You are gung hoe arent you! That explains it.

    January 8, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. hamsta

    The last time the economy was good(clinton)the republicans had control in congress.with bush we had dumbocrats in congress the economy started going south.we get obama plus a dumbocrat congress and now the economy is stagnant.ur only partially correct congress is screwing up on the dumbocrat side with a welfare loving dumbocratic socialist blamer in chief.

    January 8, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  15. hamsta

    its really sad that a high school dropout such as myself can find jobs and earn a comfortable living but all these people that spent all that money on a worthless college education are on unemployment.sounds like some people need to stop drinking the college guarantees u a better life kool aid.thats just some propoganda spun from hard work gaurantees a better life.why is that these democrats and socialists hate thomas jefferson and the other founding fathers?answer-try as hard as they can to prove them wrong they only prove them correct after they screw everything up.

    January 8, 2012 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
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