The Best and Worst Words of 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ben Zimmer, language columnist for the Boston Globe and executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus and, talks about the year’s vocabulary and the best and worst words of 2012.


Ben Zimmer

Comments [30]

Boise twin

"It is what it is." That is the worst phrase I have heard and it won't go away! I particularly loathe this phrase because it is either used by people who do not take responsibility for their actions or by people who are apathetic.

Dec. 18 2012 06:38 PM
The Truth from Becky

First, I think you are one of the people that says "make sense" and that is why you responded and second, I happen to agree with your other points and lastly, have a good day David B!

Dec. 11 2012 03:06 PM
david butwin

becky, I don't like lastly...or firstly or secondly, etc. never got used to newbie. Icon is still a religious symbol to me. And slamdunk is too hard to be considered an easy mark. What about layup. Or neither.

Dec. 11 2012 01:07 PM
The Truth from Becky

and lastly the words I hate to hear in the office.."make sense?" this is offensive, stop it!! The person will TELL you if it doesn't make sense and most often the person knows your asking because you don't understand what you're babbling on about yourself!!

Dec. 11 2012 12:44 PM
sher from village

A most annoying "linker" is used by many of Leondard's guests: starting to answer EVERY question with "So .. " as if they were in mid-sentence. Hope you can coach/remind your guests to just start answering the question - No need for useless "So ..." PLEASE!

Dec. 11 2012 12:43 PM
Alyson from Brooklyn

These conversations always make me think of Orwell's 1984. "Thoughtcrime" anyone?

Dec. 11 2012 12:42 PM
The Truth from Becky

OMG can we puhleese stop saying OMG??!

Dec. 11 2012 12:42 PM
Tony from Canarsie

Overheard recently: an obsessive computer user described as "a mouse potato."

Dec. 11 2012 12:41 PM
Kaylin from Nyack

Speaking of selfies, it bothers me that most people spell it as "selfie" even when in the singular form.

Dec. 11 2012 12:41 PM
Cliff from Maine

How About Scroogle?

Dec. 11 2012 12:40 PM
Carlos from Montclair

I hate the use of "optics" in political speak

Dec. 11 2012 12:39 PM
The Truth from Becky

"Up talk" is almost ALWAYS sarcastic..I like it, what like you don't?

Dec. 11 2012 12:38 PM
Geoff from West Orange

How about one of the few "infixes" in English, the term "a-whole-nother" to mean another thing altogether? There are a few others but they're typically profane, such as "fan-[beep]ing-tastic".

Dec. 11 2012 12:38 PM
foodaggro from Brooklyn

I want to ban upspeak and the overused phrase "at the end of the dayyy..."

Dec. 11 2012 12:37 PM
John-Paul G from Edison, NJ

Hashtag - spoken aloud as denoting either the main subject or a brief one or compound word summation of a recent sentence/idea.

e.g. "My boyfriend is so overworked. He seems to thrive on working long hours. Hashtag: workaholic"

Also, feel free to ask me what an "Upsecsy" is.

Dec. 11 2012 12:36 PM
The Truth from Becky

"here's the thing" is gaining momentum, let's stop that one also!

Dec. 11 2012 12:36 PM
Gary from Upper Left Side

Off subject, but why can't half the journalists properly pronounce "Pulitzer", as in the Pulitzer Prize, named after publisher Joseph Pulitzer?

Dec. 11 2012 12:35 PM
Meredith from Brooklyn

What about pinning, pinned, pin due to Pinterest? Girls are also no longer being "pinned" by a boy :)

Dec. 11 2012 12:34 PM
Geoff from West Orange

"Superstorm" has a quasi-legal connotation, because insurance companies will not cover "hurricane-related" damage, so a tree falling on a house in New Jersey was damaged by the "superstorm" and not the hurricane...

Dec. 11 2012 12:33 PM


Dec. 11 2012 12:33 PM
tim from nyc

another computer-ism: the 'ctrl' key on the keyboard.
i have heard it called 'central' instead of 'control'.

Dec. 11 2012 12:32 PM
Gary from Upper Left Side

The silliest popular phrase by the media is "political calculus". No one--other than media people--uses "political calculus" in conversion. The term makes no sense.

Dec. 11 2012 12:32 PM
Rebecca from Piermont, NY

Just wanted to comment on Ben Zimmer's pronunciation of Elbridge Gerry's name. Although we say "gerrymander" with a soft "g," which seems logical because it's followed by the vowel "e," Elbridge Gerry himself pronounced his name with a hard "g," Just another example of how we allow our language to morph through the centuries. And then there's the term "morph..."

Dec. 11 2012 12:31 PM
tim from nyc

how about a 'non-word'? the icons used in programs.
my favorite is 'save' that shows an icon of a floppy drive.

Dec. 11 2012 12:25 PM
The Truth from Becky

"supposably" instead of "supposedly" - puhleesee it's not a word!!

Dec. 11 2012 12:23 PM
The Truth from Becky

"under the bus" puhleese stop saying this!!

Dec. 11 2012 12:19 PM
Mark Schuyler from Brooklyn

I detest "back in the day". Incomplete thought, meaningless, lazy and nonsensical.

Dec. 11 2012 12:15 PM
Jill from New York

WOuld Ben Zimmer go back to "all in"; it's routinely used nowadays including by the woman in the Petraeus affair (and author of the bio of him that is titled by the same term) in seeming mistaken exchange for "all out"; see the dictionary definitions of both; "all out" should mean "overwhelming effort" or "holding nothing back" while "all in" has historically meant "exhausted" and "bushed".

Dec. 11 2012 12:14 PM
Thomas Szymanski from Valley Stream

YOLO seems to me to be an alternative to the classic "Carpe Diem." Are there any other examples of classic words or phrases that have been "modernized" for the twitter/smart phone age?

Dec. 11 2012 12:13 PM
antonio ortiz from bayside

Verdant is my favorite word!

a : green in tint or color
b : green with growing plants
: unripe in experience or judgment : green 9a, b

Dec. 11 2012 12:09 PM

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