Words of the Year 2007

Apologies for my silence over the past couple of weeks. I’m afraid that I’ll be silent for a while longer, as I’m a guest of the National Health Service, having been in (the) hospital for two weeks now, and expecting to be here for a while longer. Everything’s going pretty well so far—I feel well-cared-for. What would be great is if I could use the time for blogging, but although there is an internet connection on the bedside television, almost any site you’d want to use is blocked—including Blogger, SbaCL and, oddly enough, my doctor’s (BrE) surgery/(AmE) office.

So, the very kind Better Half has brought me his laptop so that I can type a little message and he can post it for me. While there are many things that I could blog about these days (my backlog will get back into ridiculous mode, I’m certain), let’s turn it over to you for a while with our second annual SbaCL Words of the Year competition. (Since I can’t get to my blog, I can’t do nice links to past postings, so please hit on the tags below to get to related posts, including last year’s WotY discussions).

Last year, we had three categories for WotY. I’ll keep the third category for the time being, but will reserve the right not to make an award in that category if there isn’t a clear winner. The categories are:

1. Best AmE to BrE import
2. Best BrE to AmE import
3. Best word coined by a reader of this blog (on this blog)

For the first two categories, the word doesn’t have to have been imported into the other dialect in 2007, but it should have come into its own in some way in the (popular culture of the) other dialect this year.

How it works: you nominate words—preferably with arguments for their WotY-worthiness—in the comments to this post. From those nominations, I will choose the winning words—at the end of 2007, or the beginning of 2008, depending on how this hospital business goes.
In the meantime, I will not be answering e-mails. You’re welcome to continue sending requests for coverage of BrE/AmE issues, but please don’t expect any quick responses, and please use the comments section, not the e-mail option, for nominating words.

All best wishes for the holidays!


  1. Do the Brits really call doctors' offices surgeries? I'm having trouble wrapping my head around that one!

    Hope you feel better soon, Lynne!

  2. Get well soon, Lynne. I've been missing the blog. Hope you're home for Christmas.

  3. Dan: Not only that, but politicians even call their offices, the ones where they meet with people from their districts(AmE) / constituencies(BrE), surgeries too.

  4. Hospitals are not the best place to spend any holiday. May the rest of your stay be very, very short.

    Looking forward to the backlog unjamming. Take all the time you need.

  5. Get well soon, lass. Meantime
    Am to Br: "sub-prime". For reasons too ob...

  6. Best wishes for both the holidays and a speedy recovery :)

  7. The first doctors were barber/surgeons and when it bcame a recognised profession in its own right, it may explain why their premises were known as surgeries. To this day barber’s shop display a red and white banded pole outside their shop, which relates back to their past joint role. Dentist’s premises are also known as surgeries and I think sometimes vet’s (vetinarian’s) premises are called surgeries, but normally they are just known as “The Vets”( a word you don’t say in the cat’s presence as she will disappear!).

    Lynne,hoping you get well soon and you are home for Christmas.

  8. Yes of course get well soon, Lynne. My best thoughts go with you.

  9. Thanks for all the well-wishing. I've been released on my own recognizance--for the time being!

    But how about some nominations?

    I'm not sold on 'sub-prime' (yet) for the same reason I didn't like 'size 00' last year: it's used a lot in BrE sources to discuss an American phenomenon, but I haven't seen it make the shift to describing the same phenomenon in the UK. Have people started calling some UK mortgages 'subprime'? If not, then it'll pass when the American news story passes...

  10. I've seen journalists using "sub-prime" to describe things British, but perhaps we should agree that journalists don't count.

  11. From today's Sunday Times, anent the collapse of the Brown souffle:-
    "banks have been reluctant even to lend to each other, and absolutely unwilling to lend on sub-prime risks of any kind." Surely we can't class Lord Rees-Mogg as a mere journo?

  12. there was a talking head being interviewed on Radio 4's Today Programme in the business news segment a couple of days ago who said - "...lending to subprime or, as we call it here, poor people."

  13. John C, it's not quite true to say MPs (and councillors, that is members of local authority councils) call their offices "surgeries" - they call the sessions where they are open to constituents to come along with their problems "surgeries", and they may call the room where that takes place their "surgery", but a constituency office is a constituency office.

  14. While I would not consider this "the word of the year" since its increasing usage has been gradual (and is certainly not topical for 2007), the word 'pint' to mean a glass of beer has certainly been increasing in usage here in the western U.S. We have a pretty strong microbrew / craft brew culture here in the West, and going out for good beer (even going to a 'pub') is definitely part of everyday life. Nowadays, it's very common to hear 'do ya wanna go out for some pints after work?'. 10 years ago, a pint (at least to me) was just a unit of measurement signifying two cups, and to call a beer a pint (especially since the normal American beer is 12 oz and not 16) would have sounded purposefully British. However, it sounds perfectly normal to my American ears now.

  15. If the new(-ish) American expression is "wanna go out for some pints after work?", Matt, at least it's morte honest than the British expression, which is always: "Coming for a pint?", when both asker and askee know that A pint alone is not what is meant, 20fluid ounces or otherwise ... (but the American fl oz is 4.1 per cent larger than the Imperial fl oz, so err - well, you work it out ...)

  16. olkAs a Brit in the US (FL) for 30+ years, having just survived my 68th, and as a recently-diagnosed diabetic now suffering some depredations thereof, I've been rudely thrust into doctors' denizens for the first time since I was 21 in the UK. So here's my take on why it's called an office here, and a surgery there.

    The first thing you see in the US is truly an office, staffed by people who have nothing to do with medicine. This front-line is an army of receptionists, insurance specialists, medical coders, and other hangers-on. By contrast the medical staff (two docs and a nurse) appears to be an afterthought compared with the office (five people at my last count.)

    My memory of primary-care medicine in the UK is of a surgery in back of the doc's house where he did actual medical work. The 'office' was almost non-existent. One person could handle it all. It wasn't that far removed from 'Dr Finlay's Casebook,' in which arguably the lead character was his housekeeper, Annie, who often accepted wildfowl in lieu of cash payment. (This was of course before the NHS made poultry redundant, barely a half-generation before I arrived on-scene.)

    As far as WOTY is concerned, all I can think of is hokey. It covers a lot of ground. But it's not all that recent, and may have gone back-and-forth a few times across the pond.

    So here's a thought. I have noticed that music has been in the doldrums for quite some time. No-one seems to be able any more to write anything tuneful. The last I can think of is Jerome Kern, but I know I'm way out of date on that one. However, is it possible that there is a 'wordful' equivalent of tuneful? Does word-creation go through barren periods too?

  17. Could it be that Americans call it a "doctor's office" because that is a direct translation of the phrase from various other European languages - and first generation immigrants would have been unlikely to understand or later pick up and use the rather opaque and ambiguous term "surgery" - and no one would fail to understand "doctor's office."

  18. " 'Dr Finlay's Casebook,' in which arguably the lead character was his housekeeper, Annie,..". Janet, surely?

  19. I suspect that I see a Br adjective deployed in ths Am English:-
    "The central banks will allow specific institutions (big banks) to trade in their piles of dodgy loans for electronic piles of cash for a specified period of time. After a period of time the banks will have to buy those dodgy loans back, at par and with cash, at some point in the future. If those loans are bad (‘bad’ like a $500,000 mortgage on a $300,000 condo) then this maneuver by the Fed simply won’t work."

  20. Lynned, I know this is not a new word for Americans, but I found this opening in the Kansas City Star's review of Sweeney Todd great fun:

    Bloody wonderful.

    I assume this would work in the UK, too. Is that right?


  21. To answer Matt, I agree - I was just corrected at a bar when I asked for something smaller than a huge stein of beer. The waiter offered "a pint?"

  22. I don't think "sub(-)prime" is eligible. The spirit of the award is that the word should have been (1) reasonably common for some time in America, and (2) only very recently achieved to a modicum of currency in Britain. Since "subprime" has been voted American Dialect Society's Word of the Year for 2007, this suggests that requirement (1) is not fulfilled.

    For US-to-UK, I might suggest either "pimp" in the "pimp my ride" sense. But then "sex up" has been doing a perfectly good job in Britain since the BBC's notorious May 2003 news report.

  23. The ADS WotY does not have to be a new word, so the fact that it is their word of the year doesn't necessarily disqualify it from being ours too...

  24. Bob,

    Yes, 'bloody wonderful' works in the UK too. 'Bloody' reads as an informal intensifier first and foremost, with the 'gory' meaning secondary and likely to provoke a small groan and roll of the eyes when it hits...

    (But 'bloody wonderful' is not a BrE phrase I've ever heard, or can imagine hearing, someone say in reality: it doesn't flow; it's not an idiomatic formula. 'Bloody brilliant', yes, as in the Telegraph article here: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/arts/ reellife/jan08/sweeney.htm - sorry, I can't see how to attach a link here, so I've had to put a space in the middle of that to get it to fit.)


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)