[Ads-l] "Star Turns": a new WOTY category?

Geoffrey Nunberg nunbergg at GMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 21 15:04:21 EST 2017

Looking over the WOTY candidates for this year and from past ones, it strikes me that there’s a persistent tension between more-or-less novel items like #metoo, youthquake (Oxford Dicts.), alt-, antifa, covfefe, hands, lit, Trumpocene, Trump! (the jeer <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/16/us/trump-racial-jeers.html>) and blockchain, and items like grope, complicit (Dictionary.com), reckoning (Fritancy), tribal (me, on Fresh Air), feminism (M-W), populism (Cambridge), dotard and collusion etc. — words that have long been part of the discourse but have surged over the last year or so.* I’m not sure what to call the latter. “Revivals” doesn’t seem quite right (though it works for dotard and a few others); they’re more like well-known character actors who have recently done a star turn. At the least, they might be given a category of their own, particularly since the ADS choice, more than others, should tilt toward genuine additions to the language.

*I can see Collins’s ‘fake news’ going either way, inasmuch as DJT has invested it with a new meaning.)


Geoffrey Nunberg
Adjunct Full Professor
School of Information
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley CA 94720

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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