Words of the Year 2014

Words of the Year 2014

I love the American Dialect Society’s word-of-the-year vote. All the other organizations who’ve jumped on the bandwagon are the Golden Globes to the ADS’s Oscars. Publicity stunt? Yes. Fun anyway? Hell yes.

This year, in preparation for a post just like this, I started tracking new-to-me words that I discovered while reading. Resolution: kept! (And 2015’s list already has a couple of entries.)

To begin with, a trio of slang words.

For over a year, I’ve been running a Twitter account, @nixicon, devoted to retweeting people who claim that some word is not a word. Among other things, it’s been a great way to suss out slang terms — some people really hate slang, especially slang that starts to gain a toehold in common speech.

Three new or newly prominent words that have been a recurring theme: bae, thot, and fleek.

Bae is the one you’ve probably heard of, because bae is having quite a year, spurring many explanatory articles and even inspiring an obituary from The Atlantic. It means “significant other” or “sweetie,” it’s probably short for “babe,” and it spurs a lot of word rage.

Thot is ruder, a synonym for “slut” or “ho.” It may be an acronym for “that ho over there” or “that ho out there.” Charming it’s not, but its popularity has shot up in 2014. Complex tracked it to Chicago and the hip-hop artist Chief Keef.

Fleek (or “on fleek”) is the baby of this trio — I started noticing it in “not a word” tweets in November. People say it means “on point,” or more broadly “cool” or “great.” Peaches Monroe used the phrase “eyebrows on fleek” in a Vine video in June, and Ariana Grande sang it on MTV in August. This is my favorite of the four, honestly, but I’m betting it’ll peak in 2015, so remind me to put this on my list in a year.

Shorter notes about other words:

dad (as an adjective)
Dad Twitter. Dad humor. And, though not an adjective, the Dads of tech. “Dad” is the older, square, slightly sinister version of “normcore.”

hot take
The non-publication-specific version of “Slate pitch.” 2014: The year of hot takes and clickbait.

Clickbait is the popular version, but I’ve seen fave-bait and flamebait and other variations. Of course, it predates internet phenomena — Oscar bait, jailbait, race baiting, etc.

curiosity gap
What clickbait headlines exploit.

Attraction to intellect, rather than physique.

Up for try*ing anything *sexual. (Get it? Get it?)

Portmanteau of “involuntary celibate.”

I don’t know if this is a real thing, and I don’t care. The word is delightful, even if the look is just grunge 2.0. So much more fun to say than “normcore.”

heteroamorous and homoamorous
Romantic attraction to people of the opposite sex, or the same sex, as distinct from sexual attraction. This is a Dan Savage-ism, invoked when he describes some people as “bisexual-but-heteroamorous” or “-homoamorous.”

fuck zone
(Deserves to be more popular.) The mirror image of “friend zone.” Being friendzoned: being thought of as just a friend, when you’d like to be a sexual partner. Being fuckzoned: being thought of as just a sexual partner, when you’d like to be a friend. “I think he’d be an awesome friend, but he keeps fuckzoning me.”

The opposite of jealousy: Experiencing joy or pleasure in a partner’s relationship with another person.

dead name
The former, misgendered name of a trans person.

trickle truth
Reveal of the truth (about an affair) gradually, over time, rather than in one admission.

second amendment (as a verb)
As a verb, to shoot someone, typically by accident: “Two-Year-Old Second Amendments Himself to Death.” Dan Savage tried to make this happen for a while, but it’s just not as snappy as “santorum” or “GGG.”
curiosity gap

White people “discovering” stuff that minorities have already been doing.

polar vortex
Thanks to climate change, the reason for absurdly cold weather in January 2014.

Portmanteau of “snowy neckdown.” Unplowed snow in streets, showing where cars don’t actually drive (because if they drove there, the snow would be gone.)

Intense hatred of particular sounds — people chewing, for instance. Apparently oral sounds (yawning, whistling) are common triggers.

The wave of slowed down traffic that propagates behind whatever the original cause was.

Someone who eats invasive species.

This is a thing! On Halloween, parents drive to a parking lot or other area, and kids walk from car to car to do trick or treat.

Someone who shares your name, which will probably mess with your online findability. (I share mine with a former Roman Catholic priest, and a writer/editor at Bloomberg.)

mutton busting
Little kids riding sheep until they’re thrown off. Saw it in action at the Washington State Fair this year.

A graphic symbol similar to an ampersand meaning “and/or.”

Monterey Jill
Monterey Jack cheese for ladies.

spiralizer and zoodles
The spiralizer is a kitchen gadget designed to shave vegetables into noodle-like slices — spiral-shaped — as a pasta replacement. More formally called a “spiral slicer.” Use a spiralizer on zucchini and you get zoodles.

Portmanteau of “misogynist nerd.” A vocabulary byproduct of GamerGate exchanges.

Short version of “homecoming” referring to the dance. “You going to hoco?”

Paid vacation before you start at a new job.

A communion service featuring U2 songs instead of traditional hymns or other music.

Sarcastic response to “feminist” promoting men’s rights. It’s attempted parody that has no understanding, let alone sympathy for, what it’s parodying. Good job, men.

Kristin Bell and Dax Shepard’s term for paparazzi who take and sell pictures of celebrities’ kids. If it weren’t for “second amendment” and this next word, I’d vote for this for most outrageous. Better luck next time, Bell-Shepards.

The Fappening
Yes, it’s gross. Yes, the incident it describes (the sexual violation of celebrities by posting stolen nude photos) was terrible. But this gets my nomination for most outrageous word of 2014, edging out “second amendment” as a verb.

A retail shift where you close the store one night and then open it the next morning. The phenomenon is outrageous; the word, sadly necessary.

Architecture designed to duplicate the appearance of existing structures. Making a city in China feel like Paris, for example, or a government building in DC feel like a Roman building.

Similar to “completist,” but with a gaming focus: Someone who wants to complete all the levels and find all the stuff in a game, not just get to the end.

A playground that offers water games — nozzles, fountains, etc.

pupternity leave
Taking time off work to welcome a new dog to your home, rather than a new baby.

My pretend ballot for the American Dialect Society’s words-of-the-year vote:

Word of the Year: bae — perfect example of a relatively new word that’s hit a peak in 2014. It may last for years to come, but I suspect it’ll always have a whiff of this moment in time to it.

Revival of the Year (my own category): feminist (I would’ve called this “word of the year,” but it’s clearly not new. But in 2014 it’s been both a battle cry and a lightning rod, boosted by Beyoncé’s public embrace of it.)

Most Useful: misophonia or jamiton — they’re both like high-end sniglets

Most Creative: fuck zone/fuckzone

Most Unnecessary: meninist

Most Outrageous: The Fappening

Most Euphemistic: conscious uncoupling (the Gwyneth Paltrow version of divorce)

Most Likely to Succeed: torn between sprayground and hoco

Least Likely to Succeed: second amendment, verb edition (this didn’t last past May this year)