Earlier this year, Ben Zimmer, the head of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society
, thought “winning” might be the word of the year.
“Remember when Charlie Sheen was a big deal and everyone was talking about ‘winning’?” Zimmer asked “On The Media
” host Brooke Gladstone when he stopped by the radio show last Friday to talk dialect. “Back in that brief moment … we might have thought that ‘winning’ would be a winning word.”
Each year, the American Dialect Society’s selects a word of the year
. In 2010, for instance, the word was “app”; in 2009, it was “tweet.”
Some bad news for Sheen, however—an upstart word has passed “winning.”
“I think that ‘occupy’ is coming on strong as a definite frontrunner,” Zimmer said. “We’ll see by the end of the year if it really shows that staying power as I think it will.”
Another contender, Zimmer added, is “downgrade.” When Standard and Poor’s downgraded the U.S. debt rating, the idea behind that word became a “metaphorical idea of what’s happened to our country,” he told Simeone.
So there you have it. In the race for word of the year, “occupy” leads in the final stretch, with “downgrade” and “winning” trailing.
Care to make a wager on the winner?
to listen to the entire “On The Media” segment with Zimmer, who is also executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus
and former "On Language" columnist for The New York Times