2022 US-to-UK Word of the Year: homer

Yesterday, I declared the UK-to-US SbaCL Word of the Year. You can read about it here

The US-to-UK one may be as controversial as it was the first time (a)round (in May). But here goes: 

2022's US-to-UK Word of the Year is: homer


Why? 
  • Because it is possibly the most talked-about Americanism in British social media this year.
  • Because if I chose the other finalist,* I'd get too many "that's not a word!" complaints.
  • Because it alludes a huge, wordy phenomenon of 2022.
That phenomenon is Wordle, the word game invented by a Welsh engineer in the US, an added transatlantic bonus. 

Homer was the Wordle solution on the 5th of May, setting off a lot of grumpiness on social media. The cartoonist Stephen Collins provides a good illustration of the depth of feeling on the matter on the part of many committed UK Wordlers:


Stephen Collins @stephen_collins · 31 May 2022 Wordle: still angry about ‘homer’. It’s been weeks now. Furious. Stephen Collins @stephen_collins Will I ever play again? Can I forgive? Homer. Fuck no 11:24 pm · 31 May 2022


So, this isn't a Word of the Year because British people have taken on the word to refer to baseball home runs. There is very little need to talk about baseball in Britain. It's US-to-UK Word of the Year because it was an Americanism talking point in Britain, demonstrating how separate our vocabularies can be.

But is it an Americanism? The thing is, British people do say homer for lots of other reasons. In various BrE dialects or jargons, it can be a homing pigeon, a (BrE) match played on the home (BrE) pitch in some sports, or "a job that a skilled worker, such as a house painter or a hairdresser[..], does for a private customer in the customer's home, especially when they do this in addition to their main job and without telling their employer or the tax authorities" (Cambridge Dictionary). It's also the name of an ancient Hebrew measurement. But none of these uses are as common in BrE as homer meaning 'home run' is in AmE, and so the word was definitely perceived as an Americanism by British Wordle players. 

Now, this choice isn't exactly original on my part. Cambridge Dictionary made homer their Word of the Year back in November. It's also been noted as one of the most Googled words of the year. But that's another reason why it feels right as the US-to-UK Word of the Year. It not only spiked high in their look-up statistics on the day, it continued to be looked up in their online dictionary for months after—perhaps because BrE speakers just can't stop talking/tweeting about it. Homer was again showing up in tweets about losing one's Wordle streak on 27 December, when the answer was the tricky HAVOC. (And I imagine it was showing up in the less searchable social media as well.)  It'll be interesting to see if it's still being put to these purposes next year, or if it'll have been forgotten. The chances that it'll be forgiven seem thin.

I do encourage you to have a look at Cambridge's Word of the Year site for more on this word, British–American linguistic relations and how Wordle's been affecting dictionary usage. 




*My other "finalist" was them's the breaks, as spoken by Boris Johnson in his resignation speech outside 10 Downing Street. I was sure in July that that would be my "Word" of the Year, but, two Prime Ministers later, this well and truly feels like ancient news now.

13 comments

  1. Replies
    1. Also in a sporting context, "homer" can be used to refer to a referee who is perceived to favo(u)r the home side in decisions. (For completeness, a ref who is seen as biased towards the away team is a "tourist", hence the chant "the referee's a tourist" when things are going badly for the home team.)

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  2. I'm surprised by this choice for the simple reason that the only time I've ever come across the word (I'm a Brit in the UK) is when it was the Wordle solution on 5 May (and then only on the day itself, when I googled it to find out what it meant; I didn't see it mentioned at all on social media outside of the results of that Google search).

    Regarding this…

    "The thing is, British people do say homer for lots of other reasons. In various BrE dialects or jargons, it can be a homing pigeon, a (BrE) match played on the home (BrE) pitch in some sports, or "a job that a skilled worker, such as a house painter or a hairdresser[..], does for a private customer in the customer's home, especially when they do this in addition to their main job and without telling their employer or the tax authorities".

    …I can only say that in five decades I've never come across any of these uses (and I've had plenty of exposure to plenty of dialects). Which is not to say they aren't actual uses, but it does suggest they're rather marginal.

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    Replies
    1. Well, I'd assume the first one, anyway, is limited to pigeon fanciers and the last one is mostly used by people who do that sort of work.

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    2. I've heard it in the work context. In my case it was something (say fixing a table) where the worker brought it to the work site, to work on at lunch or after hours, because the work site had the good tools. West London area.

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  3. I do not play Wordle, I'm not on Twitter, nor most of the other social media sites and I'm only aware of this brouhaha because of the discussion on this site.

    However, despite being British and living in the UK, I do follow baseball.

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  4. I'm familiar with the 'extra-employment' sense of the term, having used a hospital painter to decorate our kitchen when we lived in Scotland. But it's not a US usage of the word; nor, apparently, is it used in this sense in the rest of the UK

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  5. I never knew 'them's the breaks' was AmE, I feel I've know it for a while and assumed it was a recent local coinage

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  6. I have never heard (or read) this word in the UK. I live in the Midlands.

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    Replies
    1. As an American who plays Wordle (315 out 317 correct), I read in the American press how ticked off Brits were with HOMER.

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  7. Homer is the US to UK word the year? Doh!

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  8. BEN: In his epic poems, Homer often refers to nectar as the drink of the gods and which substance as their food?
    DOM: I know he likes doughnuts. I think I'll go with… doughnuts, please, Ben.
    BEN: OK. You could've passed this one over to Linzi. Linzi?
    LINZI: I would've said doughnuts as well.

    The clip from daytime TV quiz show Tipping Point is on YouTube. Host Ben Shephard's facial expressions are priceless.

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Abbr.

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