Choice of ‘Word of the Year’ seems pragmatic | Latte Guy | Dec. 30

Merriam-Webster has officially declared “pragmatic” to be the Word of the Year for 2011.

Merriam-Webster has officially declared “pragmatic” to be the Word of the Year for 2011.

Pragmatic beat out perennial word-of-the-year contenders “austerity,” “ambivalence,” “insidious,” “didactic,” “diversity,” “capitalism,” “socialism,” and “vitriol.”

Observers said the contest was a particularly nasty and contentious competition among the Word of the Year finalists, with the exception of ambivalence, which indicated early on that while it would like to win, it also wouldn’t feel too bad about losing.

During the final vote count at Merriam-Webster headquarters, “socialism” and “capitalism” nearly came to blows, and had to be separated by “vitriol.” Immediately after the final voting, “insidious” announced that it would be filing an appeal with Funk & Wagnalls, complaining that the contest was tainted by massive and widespread voter fraud.

“Austerity” was seeking to become a repeat champion; it was Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year in 2010, but had to settle for second place this year, an honor that does not include a trophy, a celebration or any other form of recognition.

“Bailout,” Merriam-Webster’s Top Word in 2008, didn’t even crack the top 10 this year. Political pundits suggest this reflects either rapid and significant improvement in this country’s economy, or else a complete and total financial meltdown by mid-summer of 2012.

Pragmatism, which formerly lived and worked in Washington D.C., but has been exiled to “Main Street” by Congress since 2008, will pick up its trophy at Merriam-Webster’s gala Word of the Year Award Ceremony held in French Lick, Ind., on St. Swithin’s Day.

When asked about its reaction to winning Word of the Year honors for 2011, pragmatism said: “I’m glad the American people still believe in me and use me, because it’s clear there’s no place for me in government right now.”

Also expected to attend the ceremony are former Word of the Year winners “courage,” “compassion” and “competency,” each of which, like pragmatism, has been banned from our nation’s capital by Congress for the past several years.

Word aficionados are also anxiously awaiting the January 2012 meeting of the American Dialectic Society during which the Society will select its own Word of the Year for 2011.

Last year’s winner was “app,” beating out fierce competition from “vuvuzela,” “spillionaire” (a person made rich by money from BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill cleanup fund), “gate rape” (a pejorative term for invasive new airport pat-down procedures), and two terms associated with, God help us all, Sarah Palin – “mama grizzly” and “repudiate.”

Word bookies have installed “occupy” as the prohibitive favorite in the society’s upcoming Word of the Year vote, with “Arab Spring,” “tea-bagger,” “and podcast” as likely finalists and “jobs” (both the noun and the person) as a sentimental long shot.

In other word news, the Concise Oxford English Dictionary added the words “cyber bullying,” “jeggings,” “mankind,” “rewet,” “sexting” and “woot” to its 2011 edition.

If, like me, you aren’t sure exactly what a mankini is, trust me when I tell you not to find out by googling it while you are eating. Turns out it’s a men’s thong swimsuit with shoulder straps popularized by the fictional film character Borat. Evidently it is only available in one color – lime green.

“Jeggings,” of course, are leggings styled to look like very tight denim jeans. In other words, something to wear over your mankini on your way to do some sexting at the beach.

To make room for its new entrants, the OED dropped some 200 obsolete words or phrases from its dictionary, including “cassette player” and “video jockey.” I know what a cassette player is (or was), and I’m hoping that whatever a video jockey is, it has nothing to do with underwear.

Happy New Words and Happy New Year.

Tom Tyner is an attorney for the Trust for Public Land. He is author of “Skeletons From Our Closet,” a collection of writings on the island’s latte scene.