Nominate 2014 Words of the Year!

While being interviewed today (which I'll let you know more about at some point), I was asked what the front-runners are for UK-to-US and US-to-UK Words of the Year. And I had no idea.

So: what do you think? Nominations are open for both categories as of now:

1. Best AmE-to-BrE import
2. Best BrE-to-AmE import
The word doesn’t have to have been imported into the other dialect in 2014, but it should have come into its own in some way in the (popular culture of the) other dialect this year. I retain the editor's privilege of giving other random awards on a whim.

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. Click on the WotY tag at the bottom of this post in order to visit times gone by.

Vote early and often! I plan to announce the winners in the week before Christmas.

And in other news...


  1. My bid for AmE to BrE import is:'The Military'.

    As the (British)daughter of an RAF officer and the mother of an army officer, I am fairly alert to terminology in this area, and it does seem that we have only recently begun to hear (on radio/TV) and read (in the papers!) the usage of 'the military' as a noun to cover what we used to refer to as the Armed Forces, whether air, land or sea.
    I know that it is common in the USA but I think in the UK we have previously specified the army, navy, marines and so on when referring to a military force.

    'Military' is an adjective to me - used with uniform, tactics, music, precision and so on....

    I note in passing that we are now accustomed to referring to old soldiers (especially on D-Day commemorations) as [AmE]veterans, but never vets, which of course are something quite different in the UK.

  2. Doxx, as a verb. Sample sentences: She was afraid to speak out because several people had threatened to doxx her. I doxxed him to shut him up.

    American (and increasingly International usage). To publish personal identification, contact info, or addresses of a party, with the intent of stripping privacy, and/or leaving him or her vulnerable to external harm. Done with malicious intent.

  3. I've just fancied giving you a vote ;)

  4. I'm voting for "dodgy" because it combines the meanings of several AmE adjectives--sketchy, suspect, unsound, disreputable--without meaning exactly the same as any of them. I predict it will become a part of AmE just for that reason: there's no other word that functions that way for us.

  5. An American friend has just come across the British expression "Back in the day", which she didn't understand.... could that be a candidate, or perhaps next year?

  6. Just to be clear: they have to be words that are already being used in the other country. Any documentation of such use and arguments for newsworthiness would be appreciated!

  7. I nominate "gap year" for BrE > AmE. Ben Yagoda wrote about it in his Britishisms blog in November 2012 (, but 2014 was the year it went mainstream in the pages of Time (May 14) and USA Today (Oct. 28). The American Gap Association ("Integrity in Gap Years") was founded in 2012.

    To Mrs. Redboots: "Back in the day" has been widespread for many years here in the U.S. Urban Dictionary has entries from as early as 2003.

  8. I thought "back in the day" was AmE. Hm.

  9. "Back in the day" is a ubiquitous Americanism. Much older that 2003, I would guess, though I haven't looked it up.

  10. "Back in the day" was a common part of my AmE dialect as long ago as the late 70s/early 80s. Many a family story I heard when I was very small began with "Back in the day, things/people were..."

    I'm fairly sure it was being used even earlier than that, but as I was born in the mid 70s, I can't confirm.

    I'm with Gina on nominating "dodgy"' many of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances have started using it because it covers all of the meanings she mentioned, yet always conveys a slightly difference nuance than any of those do.


  11. Checking the Corpus of Historical American English, 'back in the day' only really shows up in a meaningful way from the 1990s--much stronger in the 2000s. But it's easy to misremember it from earlier, because there were things like 'back in my day' or 'back in the days of...'

  12. BrE->AmE: I'd like to nominate "twee." I've started to see it in print media, though I don't think I've heard it on radio, TV, or in general conversation.

  13. lynne,

    Perhaps it was used primarily in a segment of the population that didn't get meaningful (and neutral to positive) media attention until relatively recently. I'm Black, and the phrase was definitely "back in the day" among my friends and family, well, back in the day. Words and phrases that we used, ones I wouldn't necessarily attribute to AAVE (not that I'd categorizs much as AAVE) often are seen as "new to AmE" long after (at least a decade) I've first learnt/heard them. In fact, I would be shocked if many other Black American didn't share my memories of this particular phrase and my experience of others.


  14. I should have mentioned that my certainty about the age of the phrase comes from photographic evidence: several relative wore t-shirts emblazoned with "Back in the day..." during a late 70s family reunion!


  15. There's an interesting post from 2012 on the history of "back in the day" on the blog grammarphobia. My effort to post a link yesterday seems to have been defeated by a filter, but it is easy to find.

    A summary- primarily, though not exclusively African American, most common in 80s and 90s, but there are plenty of examples from books and magazines in 1970s, more tentative roots going back much further.

  16. Intersting. Thanks for that information, Macha!

    It really hadn't occurred to me before I read the words "in a meaningful way" in lynne's response that this might be something connected to my racial background. But when I did read it, something clicked.

    I was raised in a very small town that seemed to have fairly even mix of a handful of races and ethnicities. Because of that, there was quite a lot of what I call "cultural bleed-through" among us. Except for the obvious things like the Spanish, Italian and Yiddish phrases that creeped into our (very local) dialect, I find it difficult to pinpoint what words/phrases came from which group during my time in that town.

    In the future, I should keep that in mind before commenting.

  17. All that makes sense. Anything mainly spoken is going to show up as 'late' in a (mostly written) corpus.

  18. For BrE->AmE I have seen the term "pitch" used more and more to refer to a soccer field.

  19. @ Anonymous: I had thought you were a nice chap until I read your “Three things men can do right now to improve their lives” post.

  20. Lynne--

    Could you remove "Anonymous's" rant about American women? It's vile, ugly, and not relevant to a discussion of WOTY.

  21. Sorry, that spammer has struck before, but if it is a recent post, It doesn't go through approval before it's posted. So
    It waits till I'm reading email...

  22. I should have clarified in my earlier post that I have heard several other people (besides me) using "dodgy" here in the Mid-Atlantic area of the U.S. What I should have said is that it will become a widespread part of AmE. My bad for not expressing it correctly.

  23. One of my favorite BrE words that I don't (yet) see jumping the Pond is "disused." I personally use the word, but I haven't seen it in print. It fills a void that AmE just doesn't have. We have to say something like "no longer in use" or "no longer being used."

    Maybe others have seen "disused" in print on the US/Can side of the Pond?

  24. I can't see any evidence that 'disused' is not AmE as well as BrE. There are plenty of examples in American texts going back as far as I can look...

  25. I see the word in AmE, but only in a specific stock phrase: "Fallen into disuse." I don't believe I've heard "disused," though.

  26. Disused seems to have narrowed in meaning and use over the years.

    I can only think of examples with buildings, and the same seems to be true for the editors of Oxford Dictionaries Online (not the same as the OED).

    A building is a disused X if X is a distinctive type of building whose construction, size, appearance etc were determined by its purpose.

    In my experience, you can have a disused warehouse, barn, church, theatre, monastery, factory, airfield etc, but not a disused house, beach hut, kiosk, shop etc.

    I think it's normal for the X to be actually used — generally as a dwelling — just not used for its original purpose. If it's not used at all, I think we'd call it deserted.

    What in the past might be call a disused law or a disused word would now, I suggest, be described differently — probably with the wordier no longer in use.

  27. My nomination for Best BrE-to-AmE import:
    Alister Yates, a BBC News Reader, referring to "the chattering classes."

  28. "Bakeoff" (baking contest) for AmE to BrE? Collins, the British dictionary, included it on a shortlist of 2014 Words of the Year (, probably influenced by "The Great British Bakeoff," a reality show. The term has been common in the US since at least 1949, when Pillsbury introduced its national Bake-Off contest; it was later adopted (in the US only?) as programmer lingo to mean a contest between competing technologies.

  29. Sorry, Richard, how does a BBC news reader count as American?

  30. As to evidence of British use of 'the military', it is now very prevalent here but I couldn't easily find a reference - until today (19th November) when Jeremy Vine, on BBC Radio 2, thanked a senior RAF officer for his contribution to a debate on 'the use of drones by the military'.

  31. Collins COBUILD English Language Dictionary is based firmly on statical analysis of frequency. Because
    it's produced for foreign learners it selects only the most common meanings and uses of words. I have the first edition published in 1987, which considered the military to be one of the three commonest uses of the word military.

    To be found so frequently in the data banks, It must have been in common use for a considerably time before the late 80's.

    Although COBUILD didn't set out to be an exclusively British English dictionary, it admitted to a BrE bias. And it specifically aimed to exclude BrE uses that are not international, and other uses, including AmE, that were not found in BrE.

    The OED lists recorded uses of the military from 1757, but that doesn't mean it was in common use.

  32. Mmmm, David, but did the definition encompass all the armed forces, or just the army?
    I am sure most British people would say 'my dad was in the Navy/ Air Force / Army during the war' rather than in the military....

  33. Biochemist

    COBUILD definition:

    2. The military are the armed forces of a country, especially officers of high rank. EG The politicians and the military will do nothing

    with these marginal notes



    OED definition

    B. n

    2. With pl. or sing. concord. Usu. with the. The armed forces (of a country); soldiers or military personnel, esp. regarded as a class.

    1757 J. H. Grose Voy. E.-Indies x. 202 None..of the Parsees, either meddle at all with the government, or with the military.
    1990 Independent 31 Oct. 11 (heading) The military ponders a worst-case scenario.

    The OED quotes are the first and last. Both seem to be British texts.

  34. As a Br-Eng user, I've never encountered doxx. Has anyone else? My spellchecker doesn't recognise it either.

    AmEng-BrEng, two. The first may well be a bit older than specifically this year, and is 'take the stand' meaning to go into the witness box. The second, is that I am beginning to hear 'step up to the plate'. That is odd as it's a reference to a sport most of us don't know much about. So the users may be using it wrong. It's used to mean something like 'come out to the front, take responsibility for and step into the firing line'.

    I've recently heard more than one person use the term 'take a rain check on' in a way which is definitely wrong as regards its original meaning. When used by a Br-Eng speaker, they almost invariably think it's a cool way of saying 'do the metaphorical equivalent of looking out of the window to check whether it's raining or not'. They're fooled by two things. First, 'check' in the expression isn't 'check' as we use it, but 'cheque'. Second, we don't have that system of issuing replacement tickets.

  35. I don't think "doxx" – either the noun or the verb, and both of which I thought were spelt d-o-x – is AmE or BrE. Internet-speak is a dialect of its own, and some (many?) of its words even cross languages. It just doesn't seem to be understood among people who don't spend a lot of time communicating across the various parts of the internet. That is to say, I doubt most of either general population would (currently) know the word, let alone use it.


  36. BrE > AmE: "Wait for it".

    This little speed bump has been making a slow but steady creep into American discourse. I just now heard it in a podcast called "Serial" (an offshoot of, wait for it,"This American Life", the NPR radio series - Americano enough for you?), and leapt up to nominate it for Word of the Year.

    We haven't tired of it yet, but we will soon enough.

  37. @Peter Mork: Are you saying that "wait for it" has recently gone from BrE to AmE? I ask because I'm pretty sure it has been common in the U.S. for ages.

    I'm still voting for "dodgy". Perhaps it seems so only because the word has been on my mind lately, but I feel as if I've heard it way more frequently this week than ever before!

  38. It has been incremental, but I don't recall seeing it from a US source before the 0s. Maybe these slow burners get disqualified - I can't judge.

    Dodgy is good - I did (ahem!) nominate it a couple of years ago, but it may be ready for its coming out party.

  39. @Peter Mork

    In that case, I agree.

  40. Since it doesn't seem to have been suggested by anyone else here, I'm going to nominate "Black Friday" for US to UK. Previously, it's been treated as a bit of an oddity, with any UK mentions explaining about it coming after Thanksgiving, and media coverage tending to be of the "look at what those crazy Yanks do" style. This year the UK retail trade and the media seem to have embraced it unapologetically, with Black Friday sales in all sorts of very British shops, and endless reports of fights over televisions and toasters.

  41. Black Friday is not eligible, since it was 2013's WotY.

  42. I noticed the AmE "named for" rather than "named after" on a question on Pointless a couple of weeks ago, and it certainly stood out to hear it from Alexander Armstrong.

    However the one I'd actually nominate for AmE => BrE is "call out" in the sense of criticise / confront. It certainly seems more and more common.

  43. To a Br Eng speaker, 'for' is a really peculiar choice of preposition to use with 'named' when 'after' is so obviously the natural one. I only encountered it for the first time about three years ago when I realised it was quite widespread on Wikip(a)edia. But both 'for' and 'after' are already English words used universally on both sides of the Atlantic except slightly differently.

    Is it just one of those odd differences of usage, like putting 'River' after the name of the river (AmE) rather than before (BrEng) or just leaving it out altogether(I assume both)? After all, even if a person doesn't already know that the Mississippi is a river, the definite article preceding it is a fairly big hint.

  44. I'd like to second "step up to the plate" as US -> UK:

    It seems especially common in sporting contexts:

    Example 2

    Example 3

    Example 5

    Example 6

  45. vp

    I've been familiar with step up to the plate for a long time. Presumably that's through exposure to American media and Americans on British media. I certainly didn't understand the metaphor, and even now I have have only a very tenuous understanding of it. Nor am I sure that we always use the phrase in its authentic American sense.

    I did a filtered google search of UK sites price to arbitrary dates:

    prior to 2000
    The hits seemed to be very much US-influenced.

    prior to 2005
    Many hits seemed genuinely British. Quite a few from the music press. I think it was a standard cliché applied to any replacement personnel in a group.

    prior to 2010
    The hits are headed by references to a BBC cookery programme actually called Step Up to the Plate. A few have the phrase in quotes "step up to the plate" but most don't — which suggests that the phrase was felt to be a bit of a neologism. Quite a range of topics: some football, some musical, some referring potential leaders and bodies that might supply leadership.

    prior to 2014
    Significantly more hits from newspaper football pages.

    Back in 2008, the BBC News magazine did this feature on hated office-speak phrases. These were the best 50 responses to a radio piece by Lucy Kellaway. In at number 33 was this (presumably) South African cri de coeur:

    33. "I once had a boss who said, 'You can't have your cake and eat it, so you have to step up to the plate and face the music.' It was in that moment I knew I had to resign before somebody got badly hurt by a pencil."
    Tim, Durban

  46. David, that last one deserves some sort of mixed cliché award.

    Going back to what I said on the 21st November, in Br Eng usage, the phrase does seem to mean something like 'come out to the front, take responsibility for and step into the firing line'. It conjures up a visual image of a metal plate you can stand on where people can throw things at you with impunity.

    People use the expression because, like David's boss, they think it makes them sound cool, 'where it's at', 'at the cutting edge'.

    My question is this. In its native home, where people are familiar with the sport it is a metaphor from, is that what it means? Or does it mean something different?

    I commented on 21st November that speakers of Br Eng who think they will sound more cutting edge if they talk about 'taking a rain check', are likely to mean something different by it to what the expression means in its native home.

  47. Dru

    It wasn't my boss, it was Tim of Durban's. Well, that's the story. It could all be a fabrication — including the identity of Tim and his location in Durban.

    Yes, 'come to the fore' is one of the BrE meanings. But in the early music-press hits it seems to have mean little more than 'replace a previous group member'. Other uses seem to intend 'stand up and be counted' — presumably what Tim of Durban's boss meant.

    The BBC use was, of course, a pun. In an important sense the plate was something full of just-cooked food. But the pun wouldn't work without some general familiarity with the term. The show's format was a competition between professional and amateur cooks. I suspect most viewers at the time (2008-2009) would have understood step up to the plate as meaning — in part — 'put yourself forward into the competition'.

    My guess is that we sort-of understood the phrase when used by Americans, but allowed our own use to be influenced by step into the breach.

  48. David and Dru, the original meaning is indeed a special application of "come to the fore," the plate in question being the "home plate" in baseball. A pitcher may pitch only when the opposing batter has stepped up to the plate (or is "in the box*," a term for the area immediately adjacent to home plate where the batter stands).

    By itself, "step up to the plate" wouldn't carry a sense of substitution. The baseball term for a substitution (subject to complex rules) is "pinch hitter," which also is sometimes used in business jargon but not nearly to the same degree as "stepping up to the plate."

    *Which I believe has no relationship at all to the dreaded box one is constantly urged to think outside of. The New Yorker skewered it well....

  49. Christian

    What I find odd in the metaphor you describe is that the batter doesn't choose to enter that space. Or do you Americans think in terms of some less organised boyhood (or girlhood) game in which only boys (or girls) with a spark of initiative seize the initiative and gets to have a turn at batting?

    In the related cisatlantic game of cricket the transition to batsman status is marked by a little ritual. The incoming batsman moves his (or her) bat under the gaze of the umpire behind the opposite plate-equivalent known as a wicket. (Confusingly so, as the term wicket also refers to narrow strip of ground between the two as-it-were-plates.)

    For the purposes of the ritual, the batsman's bat (And do we say batswoman? I don't know) should be in the line of flight of a ball crossing the middle of the opposite wicket. Once the umpire agrees that this is so, the bowling can start.

    The same function as stepping up to the plate, but a very different tempo.

  50. As it happened, this afternoon, I 'took a rain check on' (BrEng sense, see above) whether a close relative knew the term (yes) and what he thought it meant. He confirmed my suspicions when he said that to him, it meant check what the current situation was, make sure things are OK etc.

    He was quite surprised when I explained both what a rain check is in USEng and that the 'check' in the phrase isn't the word that we spell 'check' but the one that we spell 'cheque'.

  51. David -

    I'm actually not much of a baseball fan, having spent part of my childhood in Seattle, which had a new (and terrible) team at the time, and part near DC, which had just lost its team for the second time in a decade. But I do watch on occasion.

    The batting order is indeed set in advance -- substitutions happen, but only late in the game because the player whose place is taken must leave the game entirely. But the walk from the dugout (a below-ground area to the side, where the players wait) to the plate can be leisurely, and is often followed by idiosyncratic rituals to get into position for the pitch. Theoretically, there are limits to how long a player can take, but they aren't much enforced.

    I think that's the reason for the phrase, actually. A lot of the time, players are visibly reluctant to come to the plate, which perhaps isn't surprising given that the very best hitters manage to hit the ball only 1/3 of the time.* So the idea that you are fully committed to stepping up to the plate, not noodling around and delaying the game, has some force.

    *Bear in mind that "hit" has a technical meeting. Bat may connect with ball, and may in fact direct said ball a huge distance, but it won't count as a "hit" if the ball lands outside the foul lines, or is caught before it lands, or.... do not ask more, or I will tell you and we'll be here for weeks, much to the annoyance of our gracious host ;-).


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