The campaigning Twitter hashtag #blacklivesmatter has been voted the word of 2014 by the linguistic experts who form the American Dialect Society. #blacklivesmatter became a rallying cry for protests last year in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island, both of which saw the police officers responsible fail to be indicted by grand juries.
“While #blacklivesmatter may not fit the traditional definition of a word, it demonstrates how powerfully a hashtag can convey a succinct social message,” said Ben Zimmer, chair of the society’s new words committee and executive editor of Vocabulary.com. “Language scholars are paying attention to the innovative linguistic force of hashtags, and #blacklivesmatter was certainly a forceful example of this in 2014.”
#blacklivesmatter was the overwhelming winner of the 125-year-old society’s “most notable hashtag” category, receiving 226 votes from a caucus of linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians and scholars, well ahead of #icantbreathe, the final words of Garner, which became another cry of protest at police violence on social media.
It then went on to comprehensively beat other category winners to be named word of the year, taking 196 of a total of 220 votes. In second place came “columbusing”, the concept of cultural appropriation, “especially the act of a white person claiming to discover things already known to minority cultures”, which was named 2014’s most creative word. “Bae”, meaning a romantic partner, “manspreading” as in a man sitting with his legs wide apart on public transport to block other seats, and “I can’t even” to express bewilderment and frustration, came in behind.
Most useless word of 2014, according to the American Dialect Society, was “baeless” – lacking a bae – with “narcissistick”, a pejorative term for a selfie stick, and “lumbersexual”, a “fashionably rugged man who adopts the stereotypical dress and facial hair of a lumberjack”, deemed not quite as useless by society members.
“Most outrageous” was the use of second-amendment as a verb, “to kill (someone) with a gun, used ironically by gun control supporters”, followed by “God view”, the “display mode used by ride-sharing service Uber providing employees with real-time information on all users”. “EIT”, an abbreviation for enhanced interrogation technique, triumphed in the “most euphemistic” category, ahead of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s coining of “conscious uncoupling” to mean getting divorced.
The vote has been running for 25 years. Last year, because took the top prize. “No longer”, said Zimmer at the time, “does because have to be followed by of or a full clause.” Instead, “you might not go to a party ‘because tired’.” This is the first time a hashtag has won the accolade. The society interprets its “word of the year” in the sense of a “vocabulary item”, enabling it to consider phrases as well as words. “The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year,” it says.
WORD OF THE YEAR
#blacklivesmatter: hashtag used as protest over blacks killed at the hands of police (esp. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner in Staten Island). (196 votes)
bae: a sweetheart or romantic partner. (3)
columbusing: cultural appropriation, especially the act of a white person claiming to discover things already known to minority cultures. (11)
even: deal with or reconcile difficult situations or emotions (from “I can’t even”). (5)
manspreading: of a man, to sit with one’s legs wide on public transit in a way that blocks other seats. (5)
even: deal with or reconcile difficult situations or emotions (from “I can’t even”). (133 votes)
budtender: a person who specializes in serving marijuana to consumers, especially in legal dispensaries. (69)
unbothered: not annoyed or distracted. (15)
Ebola: deadly virus that, in 2014, killed thousands in West Africa. (9)
robocar: a self-driving car. (7)
columbusing: cultural appropriation, especially the act of a white person claiming to discover things already known to minority cultures. (158 votes)
manspreading: of a man, to sit with one’s legs wide on public transit in a way that blocks other seats. (44)
narcissistick (or narcisstick): pejorative term for a selfie stick. (22)
misogynoir: misogyny directed toward black women. (8)
baeless: without a romantic partner (lacking a bae). (96/133 votes)
narcissistick (or narcisstick): pejorative term for a selfie stick. (57/93)
basic: plain, socially awkward, unattractive, uninteresting, ignorant, pathetic, uncool, etc. (27)
lumbersexual: fashionably rugged man who adopts the stereotypical dress and facial hair of a lumberjack. (43)
second-amendment: v. to kill (someone) with a gun, used ironically by gun control supporters. (192 votes)
God view: display mode used by ride-sharing service Uber providing employees with real-time information on all users. (11)
sugar-dating: pay-to-play relationship between an older, wealthier person (sugar daddy/momma) and a younger partner (sugar baby). (6)
EIT: abbreviation for the already euphemistic “enhanced interrogation technique.” (108 votes)
conscious uncoupling: a divorce or romantic separation by polite mutual agreement. (84)
bye, Felicia: a dismissive farewell to someone deemed unimportant. (30)
thirsty: so hungry for a romantic partner as to appear desperate. (13)
MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
salty: exceptionally bitter, angry, or upset. (78 votes)
basic: plain, socially awkward, unattractive, uninteresting, ignorant, pathetic, uncool, etc. (58)
selfie stick: a pole to which a smartphone is attached to take selfies from a distance. (48)
budtender: a person who specialises in serving marijuana to consumers, especially in legal dispensaries. (44)
plastiglomerate: type of stone made of melted plastic, beach sediment, and organic debris. (10)
casual: a new or inexperienced person, especially a gamer (also in filthy casual). (7)
LEAST LIKELY TO SUCCEED
platisher: online media publisher that also serves as a platform for creating content. (173 votes)
pairage: term proposed by Utah legislator Kraig Powell to refer to same-sex marriages. (53)
normcore: “anti-fashion” trend of adopting an intentionally ordinary, inexpensive personal style from cheap off-the-shelf brands. (15)
MOST NOTABLE HASHTAG (new category)
#blacklivesmatter: protest over blacks killed at the hands of police (esp. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in Staten Island). (226 votes)
#icantbreathe: final words of Eric Garner, turned into rallying cry against police violence. (14)
#notallmen: response by men to discussions of sexual abuse, sexism, or misogyny that they see as portraying all men as perpetrators (countered by #yesallwomen, used by women sharing stories of bias, harassment, or abuse). (1)
#whyistayed: explanation by women about staying in abusive domestic relationships. (1)
Voting totals for each category might not be identical because the number of voters might have changed for each category.