What was the "Word of the Year" in 2010? That depends on which dictionary you use. Merriam-Webster has declared that "austerity" won top honors in 2010 (it was the most searched word on the dictionary's website). But the Oxford American Dictionary chose "refudiate," which, of course, no one even considered to be a word until Sarah Palin used it on Twitter, combining "refute" and "repudiate" to coin a new term meaning, loosely, "to reject." What word is truly deserving of such noteworthiness? Here are five possibilities:
Merriam-Webster is right, says Simone Wilson in L.A. Weekly. "Austerity" is an apt pick for these trying financial times, especially after all of the "austerity" measures imposed to stave off debt crises in Greece and elsewhere in Europe. It led Merriam-Webster.com's searches, with 250,000, and two runners-up — "socialism" and "shellacking" — were "totally Republican-planted shout-outs to Obama." But the real winners here are the "musty old" dictionaries, which use this gimmick to stay relevant in the age of spell checks and autocorrect.
Come on, says Kase Wickman in Riverfront Times. If you concede that in American politics this was the year of Sarah Palin, why not mark the occasion with a new word she created and "elevated" to the tip of everyone's tongue? "Austerity" wins if you think "pageviews" are all that matters. But if you're looking for "topicality," "refudiate" is the only choice for "Word of the Year."
There was another "fantastic nomination" in Merriam-Webster's top 10, says blogger Lynnequist in Separated by a Common Language. "Shellacking," the word President Obama used to describe the beating Democrats took in the November midterm elections, was both topical and required lots of "looking-up." It's chiefly an American term derived from "shellac" — a lacquer that becomes hard as a shell — that means a decisive defeat. Since Obama used it, it seems to have caught on.
"While I'm not a soccer fan," says Catherine Jones in Safetyxchange.org, "I did try to watch the World Cup games on TV, only to quickly change the channel" because of the deafening noise of the vuvuzelas. Millions of people worldwide now recognize the "horrid" cacophony produced by these plastic horns, which were everywhere during South Africa's World Cup games. Their "drone exceeds most national and international permissible exposure limits for noise," and will forever be part of history's soundrack for 2010.
Another option is "spillcam," says Melissa Bell in The Washington Post. The word for the deep-sea video feed showing oil gushing from BP's ruptured well was certainly on everyone's mind over the summer of 2010, which is why the Global Language Monitor says "spillcam" tops its list for 2010. And another Word of the Year contender is coming soon — "the American Dialect Society won't release its choice until January."