Economic pressures and the widening gap between rich and poor are being felt everywhere this year—from the streets of America’s cities to the dictionary.
That’s right, the dictionary.
The dictionaries team at Oxford University Press chose the phrase “squeezed middle” as its Word of the Year for 2011. The term refers to the financial pinch of the middle class.
“The speed with which squeezed middle has taken root, and the likelihood of its endurance while anxieties deepen, made it a good global candidate for Word of the Year,” Oxford Dictionaries spokeswoman Susie Dent said in a blog post.
This year marks the first time the same word (or phrase in this case) has won the honor in both the U.S. and U.K.
“While squeezed middle is British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband’s term for those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens while having the least with which to relieve it, the Word of the Year committee in the U.S. felt it had good resonance in the US, as well,” Oxford University Press explained in a press release.
“Squeezed middle” beat out “occupy,” among other words. Ed Zimmer, former ‘On Language’ columnist for The New York Times, has said “occupy” is a frontrunner for word of the year from the American Dialect Society, for which he is head of the new words committee.
Click here to see the full U.S. short list for word of the year, including Arab Spring, bunga bunga, clicktivism, crowdfunding, fracking, the 99 percent, and tiger mother.
Oxford University Press said that winning Word of the Year is no guarantee that “squeezed middle” will make it into the dictionary. First, the phrase must stand of the test of time, it explained.