Words of the Year 2008 - nominations

Word of the Year season has begun, with bloggers calling for Word of the Year nominations and publishers showing little faith in the word-generating power of December. That means it's time for me to start the ball rolling for our little twist on WotY fever.

Long-term readers will know that we have (at least) two Words of the Year here at SbaCL, and nominations are open for both categories as of now:
1. Best AmE to BrE import
2. Best BrE to AmE import
I retain the editor's privilege of giving other random awards on a whim. I'd like your nominations for the main categories. The word doesn’t have to have been imported into the other dialect in 2008, but it should have come into its own in some way in the (popular culture of the) other dialect this year.

Please nominate your favo(u)rites and give arguments for their WotY-worthiness—in the comments to this post. It might be helpful to see my reasoning on why past words were WotY worthy and other nominations weren't. So click away for 2007's nominations and results and 2006's nominations and results.

Fire away! Please!

44 comments

  1. Well, as an American living in NZ, I can't make any nominations for the official categories

    However, while at the pub with my partner's (mostly) British colleagues, I did come up with an example of cross-cultural confusion that I've been dying to share:

    "why don't they make maternity pants with suspenders?"

    in the AmE senses of "pants"(BrE "trousers") and "suspenders" (BrE "braces"), this is an odd, but legitimate question (think of your stereotypical captain of industry).

    However, in BrE it is spit-your-beer out funny.

    oops!

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  2. Hi!
    Just found this blog and look forward to reading through it. I'm an American (studying to be an anthripologist) living with a British partner in Scotland, so this looks right up my alley!

    Riotflower

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  3. oops, leave it to me to misspell my profession! AnthrOpology!

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  4. for the BrAm import, it's got to be something from the election... I was going to suggest pitbull, but we had our pitbull panic back in the eighties so it's not really an import. And there's Hockey Mom, but that's not a word so much as a phrase. But one thing I have heard people use here is a new use of 'a honey' (as in the phrase 'a hockey honey') to describe an attractive woman.

    Not having been to the States recently I can't comment on the other direction but is this the first election in history where the winning campaign slogan was a British cartoon character's catchphrase? Bob the Builder beats Sam the Plumber as the Guardian letters page put it...

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  5. I would note that Cesar Chavez got there before Bob the Builder, as far as "Yes, We Can!" goes. :->

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  6. As word of the year -- with the particular distinction of bearing a left-side-of-the-pond origin but having subsequently come to terrify us all worldwide -- I nominate SUB-PRIME.

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  7. UK to US import
    Does it need to be a newly coined word, or can it be an existing word in a new context? If it can,
    then how about the practice of using the suffix "Spice" on a name to imply that the person concerned is attractive but shallow and fit at best to be a singer in a second rate girl band?
    With reference, of course, to Sarah Palin being described as "Bible Spice"

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  8. What about 'text' for SMS?

    I've heard this a number of times from Americans recently, and i'm sure it wasn't used before.

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  9. erm, Nick, do you mean that Americans now say 'text' where they earlier used 'SMS'? Certainly I (BrE) would never use 'SMS' but I even find myself saying that someone 'has texted me' - so 'to text' is apparently a verb!

    Do Americans still refer to their 'cell' rather than a 'mobile?

    I would like to propose the verb 'nix' as a US-to-UK import - but I can only refer to Caitlin Moran's column in the Times on 4th July 2008 as an example. This is a word that I have previously only seen in American newspapers, and it means something along the lines of 'to dismiss or prohibit' an idea or proposal. It's such a useful short word that I am surprised it isn't in all our headlines. Has anyone else noticed it in BrE usage?

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  10. Yeah, i meant as a UK to US export; I think AmE used 'SMS' in the past.

    Most Americans still use 'cell phone', although I have heard 'mobile' a number of times on my last few trips over there.

    I'm not at all familiar with 'nix' though.

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  11. @disgruntled. Are you saying that honey (attractive woman)is a recent import to the UK from the US? If you are, then I'm afraid you don't read FHM magazine. They have been running a High Street Honeys competition (featuring attractive women, of course)for about a decade or so.

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  12. Here is one american who has no idea what SMS means...so that might be an argument against...

    But it could just be me.

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  13. @Andy J - ah, obviously I lead a too sheltered life...

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  14. I (an American) am not familiar with either "mobile" or "SMS." The usual words (in my community, at least!) are "cell phone" or "cell," and "text." "Mobile phone" is also used, but "mobile" as a noun is not.

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  15. The vast majority of Britons wouldn't know what SMS means either ("short message service") and would say "text", although (trivia)if you have a Nokia mobile/cellphone, the default signal for the arrival of a new text message is the Morse Code for the letters "SMS" - dotdotdot dashdash dotdotdot.

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  16. Canadian here. SMS to me is only the Safety Management System in my industry; the thing I use to text or to receive texts is my cellphone, cell, or just phone; in context I would understand mobile, but if someone just told me "I forgot my mobile" I'd ask "mobile what?".

    As for nixing things, I think most non-headline uses are forms of the almost fossilized cliche "nixed that/the idea"

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  17. 'SMS' is not at all common in the US; I'd venture to say most people would have no idea what you mean. But perhaps this illusion of recency is due to the fact that texting has only recently taken off in popularity in the US?

    No nominations from me. But I still keep noticing 'pint' as a non-specific unit of beer here in the US. I actually saw a sign advertising "one liter pints" outside a bar recently!

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  18. For US>GB word, I would like to nominate "meh", a word I've only started using recently, and so far only on the intertubes. It packs so much meaning into so few letters, I don't know how I lived without it.

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  19. moolymooly, I've seen a lot of Gah! Not so much Meh. Do they mean the same thing? I'm not sure if Gah! meaning exasperation is a short expression "God" with out the d sound.

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  20. anne t., meh is almost the opposite of gah!, since as the Wiktionary explains, meh expresses utter indifference. I agree with mollymooly that it's an extremely useful word, but as it's been around since at least 1995, when it appeared in an episode of The Simpsons, I'm not sure it's eligible for WOTY 2008.

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  21. I'm not sure if this counts as it's a morpheme rather than an actual word, but I'd like to nominate the suffix -gate to denote a scandal for the AmE-BrE WOTY. Before this year, I'd only heard it used over here to refer to the American scandals themselves, eg 'Monicagate', but 'Sachsgate' is the first solely British usage of it I've heard.

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  22. @terrycollmann: meh has been around in the US, but not so much on this side of the pond. Which is my point.

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  23. @hips unhinged ltd: the UK tabloids have been using the -gate suffix for many years now. The examples that come to mind involve scandals within the Royal Family; Camillagate and Squidgygate (!) date back to the early 1990s.

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  24. nominations - I suggest
    "meh" there's a article about it in today's Times, has been added to british dictionary by popular demand. Was featured on The Simpson's. See also
    http://www.macmillandictionaries.com/wordoftheweek/archive/080107-meh.htm
    From Deborah Evans
    17th November 2008

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  25. Looks like the evidence is swinging your way, mollymooly, since Collins agrees with you about "meh" - here's the link to today's Times story about "meh" getting in the dictionary.

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  26. I learned "SMS" about seven years ago from a French software manual that had been translated into English and which I was editing. I've seen it since in U.S. cell phone manuals, but the standard U.S. term is to text.

    (It stands for "Short Message Service," by the way.

    -h

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  27. I would like to nominate "meh", because it's a great word and becasue of the Collins thing, but it was in widespread use while I was at university in the UK at the turn of the century, so I can't in good faith.

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  28. Has "Bromance" made it across th epond yet?

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  29. I don't know if neologisms are allowed but my favourite word at to moment it twunt, courtesy of petite anglaise.
    j

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  30. @Bill: I had to look up bromance. I hope I never hear it used in anger.

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  31. For US to UK import, I suggest "meh." I'm not sure how far it has penetrated into the UK, but its inclusion in the Collins English dictionary is an indicator.

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  32. Miriam - it's very common among people my age (28 for four more days) and younger

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  33. Watercooler - not only are the devices more common in British offices - but the watercooler is apparently where we discuss last night's TV show.
    The watercooler moment (standing up in the corner of an open-plan area) has apparently replaced the tea-break (a hot cuppa and KitKat, sitting at a table in the canteen....)

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  34. I'm new here, but I nominate SatNav which is a GPS in the US. I had no idea what they were talking about!
    Curiously, I mentioned someone wearing suspenders and he went red and told me that in the UK suspenders were what I know as a Garter.

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  35. I'll nominate "dodgy" for BrE to AmE. It wasn't unknown in AmE before this year, but the mortgage crisis seems to have brought it to the fore. NPR news has been using it a lot.

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  36. @ Cinders : Brace yourself for a slap when used in conjunction with the american for trousers.
    The first time I read of a portly gentleman wearing pants and red suspenders was not pretty - brainwipe please
    j

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  37. Second subprime (it's largely misunderstood over here (Br), and apparently used as a synonym for 'credit crunch', which is bizarre for the economy-minded. Misunderstood then, but it has gained majestic heights of cultral capital in the last year.).
    Strongly vote against pants (extremely non-recent) and meh (which direction is it travelling in? Without more documentary evidence of its recency and origin etc, would have to say Collins' press efforts are the main factor in its popularity).

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  38. I think 'meh' is one of those internet words and hence is spreading from the wired outwards rather than geographically. See also lolspeak. Perhaps a new category? Although as the US is still the epicentre of the internet (discuss) perhaps that counts as an BrA to BrE import?

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  39. I probably shouldn't contribute to the text/SMS discussion but I did notice when watching the Australian Mole 3 that SMS was used instead of text, so that may be where the confusion is.

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  40. Regarding the use of SMS vs. Text, my iPhone has a icon with SMS on it and underneath is the word text. Take your pick.

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  41. In certain AmE-speaking circles (I don't know that they'd be "linguistic communities," per se; what do you call online hipsters?), "meh" is seen as so overused as to have triggered a backlash nearly a [url=http://www.avclub.com/content/blog/please_resolve]year ago[/url].

    (Please read as evidence for the AmE-to-BrE side of what is too mild to be called a dispute. And I'll put in another vote for BrE-to-AmE "dodgy," which seems to have taken over AmE talk-radio unawares.)

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  42. Bruddy hairu, as Bill Bryson's possibly apocryphal Asian friend would say. That's year ago.

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  43. So I just found this blog today and it's great! I’m an American living in America with British other half living in Britain and he had never heard the word ‘antsy’… so google led me to you!

    Anyway, for the BrE to AmE word I would like to nominate ‘queue.’ It has gained widespread usage in the US as it relates to Netflix (if you are unfamiliar: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netflix) and refers to the list of movies you would like to receive/watch. If you mention a good TV show or movie to someone, they might respond by saying ‘I’ll put that on my queue!’ or ‘That’s already on my queue!’ which doesn’t just mean ‘I’ll put it on a list of things to watch,’ it quite literally means ‘I will put it on my list of movies to receive from Netflix.’ The power of the consumer!

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  44. it appears to have gained a new preposition in its translation across the pond - "in" is more natural with "queue" than "on", even in that new online setting

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