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Monday, January 7, 2013

\'Hashtag\' Named Word of the Year by American Dialect Society

The baby named Hashtag buzzed about on the Internet in November may or may not have been a hoax. But the American Dialect Society has given the Twitter-inspired term a boost by christening “hashtag” the word of the year.

The decision came at the society's annual meeting in Boston over the weekend, where more than 250 linguists, lexicographers, grammarians, historians and other word maniacs weighed the relative merits of terms like “fiscal cliff,” “Gangnam style,” and “marriage equality.”

There were votes in 10 categories, including Most Unnecessary (“legitimate rape”), Most Euphemistic (“self-deportation”) and Most Creative (“mansplaining,” meaning a man's condescending explanation to a female audience). â €œBinders (full of women)” was named top election-related word. “YOLO,” an acronym meaning “you only live once,” was named Least Likely to Succeed. (It also finished strong in a recent contest nominating terms that should be purged from the language.) “Sandy” was voted name of the year.

In the main category “hashtag” emerged as something of a dark-horse winner, edging out “fiscal cliff” and “marriage equality” (which took Most Likely to Succeed honors), despite not being on the official list of nominees, as Ben Zimmer, the chairman of the society's new words committee, noted in a rundown of the action. “This was the year when the hashtag became a ubiquitous phenomenon in online talk,” Mr. Zimmer said in a statement.

But in language, as in the stock market, past performance is no guarantee of future results. In recent years, the society has given top honors to “occupy,” “app,” “tweet” and “bailout,” all of which seem to have some staying power. But in 1990, the first year of the contest, the prize went to the now-obscure “bushlips” (insincere political rhetoric), which beat out seeming no-brainers like “peace dividend,” “political correctness” and “bungee jumping.”