What’s your choice for Word of the Year?

The author, underwhelmed by the ‘official’ choices offered so far, reaches out to her peers for something—anything—else.

I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for those end-of-year lists. You know, the 10 best movies of 2011, or the top news stories of 2011, or the five worst outfits worn by Lady Gaga in December 2011 alone. So I get overly excited when some of those lists appear before the year’s end, kind of like getting a Christmas present a month early.

But have you ever opened up your unexpected gift only to find a real dud? Like the Christmas sweatshirt that your Aunt Blanche cross-stitched candy canes across, just under the lace collar?

Yeah, me, too.

And I had that exact same feeling when I heard the choices for the 2011 Word of the Year.

So far I know of three.

The first was while driving in my car listening to NPR’s Fresh Air. Geoff Nunberg, the linguist contributor, chose occupy as his Word of the Year. Here was his reasoning: “If the Word of the Year is supposed to be an item that has actually shaped the perception of important events, I can’t see going with anything but occupy.”

OK, I get that. But isn’t it a little biased to assume that his definition of “important events” is the same as everyone else’s? One person’s occupy could hold the same historical weight as the March on Washington, but that might barely blip the radar of someone living in a rural area with a 2.4 percent unemployment rate.

Moving on, Oxford Dictionary did not disappoint. They chose squeezed middle. The definition reads: “The section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty, consisting principally of those people on low or middle incomes.”

Better, especially because I do hear that word often, and it does affect a broader number of the population, but when I think of the Word of the Year, it’s hard to accept two words. But maybe that’s just me.

Dictionary.com chose the word tergiversate, “Pronounced ‘ter-JIV-er-sate,’ it means ‘to change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate.'”

Where do I even start?

If you’re going to be representing the word that conveys our world in 2011, chances are you’re not going to have to spell it phonetically. It’s supposed to be something that everyone has been using, placing it firmly in the spotlight of our vernacular.

I’m not sure about you, but I have not once heard tergiversate rolling off anyone’s tongue in the last 365 days.

Dictionary.com folks: If you’re trying to keep that ivory tower academia thing going, then by all means choose a word no one knows how to pronounce. Or perhaps you too are the squeezed middle and just looking for some job security, in which case, good on you.

Because nothing really has rung true so far, I began wondering what my fellow corporate communicators think.

We’re smart, we watch the news, and we work in the business world and tell its stories. So tell me, which word would you vote for Word of the Year for 2011?

Eileen Burmeister is a corporate communicator in Southern Oregon. She can be reached at burmeistereileen@gmail.com.


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