Tuesday, December 29, 2009

“Unfriend” is the New Oxford American Dictionary's 2009 word of the year, while “distracted driving” was the pick at Webster’s. Ammon Shea, author of Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages (Perigree, 2008) and Mike Agnes, editor in chief of Webster’s New World College Dictionary, explain what goes into the selections.

Contest: Check out the list of the guests’ words-of-the-decade and see how many you can use in a sentence to be read on the air.


Mike Agnes and Ammon Shea

Comments [26]


I love your station. It is necessary for me to listen via streaming audio. The link is awful. It keeps stopping to re-buffer, and many times I lose it altogether. I have a new computer (an Imac) and a new router. Nothing is wrong with my equipment. Can you explain this to me? I may have to stop listening.

Jan. 21 2010 04:27 PM
Robin from Brooklyn

I absolutely hate the word 'uptick' (or is it up-tic.....who cares) used to denote an increase or rise in some thing or phenomena. I don't know if it is in the dictionary, but it seems like the new substitute (on radio news) for 'increase'. It makes me cringe, like screechy chalk or fingernails on a blackboard.

Dec. 30 2009 06:52 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On "surreal," "The Onion's" A.V. Club column "The Hater" (sorry, Jean [15]) a week or two ago was all about that word's misusage. The writer said what people really mean when they say it is "WTF?" (except she spelled it out--won't do that here).

I like "info-bingeing"! Although I was thinking "info-gorging."

Merriam-Webster's word of the year, based on how many times it was looked up at, is "admonish," seen a lot after Joe Wilson's "You lie!" at Pres. Obama's speech to a joint Congressional session.

My worst word of the decade is "conversate." Yuck! I haven't heard it in awhile--hope it's disappeared.

Finally, if the word of the decade can be a suffix, I nominate "-ish," used to modify a whole phrase, not just a word. I've heard it mostly from teenagers in contexts like "I had an interesting trip. -Ish." (Not a great example, but I can't come up w/anything better.)

Dec. 29 2009 01:28 PM
Dw Dunphy from Red Bank, NJ

My comment is not about a word newly minted, but one I wish would go out of circulation.

ABSOLUTELY - An affirmative to indicate an absolute fact, without doubt, exaggeration, equivocation. An irrefutable statement.

ABSOLUTELY (2009) - A favorite response of 90% of public radio guests, used in the affirmative sense but often as a substitution for an opinion of a positive nature, i/e: "Yeah, sure," "Uh-huh," "pro'lly" and "I guess."

Dec. 29 2009 12:32 PM
Hank from Brooklyn

the crackberry adultescent and the unfriended tween were distractedly driving while listening to their podcast and hypermiling their carbon neutral car to the grass station, where an oversharing locavore had job spilled during a senior moment.

Dec. 29 2009 12:01 PM
Josephine from Brooklyn, NY

How is google (the verb) not the word-of-the-decade? Selection of the word-of-the-decade should also be based on longevity and impact on pop culture.

Dec. 29 2009 11:52 AM
Pamela Sharp from Brooklyn NY

I coined this term in 2007: Workflow reflux

"Workflow reflux" occurs when a project progresses from one stage to the next, is found to be incomplete and has to go back to a previous stage in workflow to be completed. Results in lost time and money. Most common in manufacturing processes incorporating digital workflow such as commercial printing.

Dec. 29 2009 11:51 AM
Laurie Spiegel from Tribeca

I'm surprised to see "distracted driving" on the list instead of the more concise and fun"intexticated" (as in "driving while intexticated").

Dec. 29 2009 11:48 AM
Donald Sclare from 42nd street

ROBUST seems to be used to describe everything - in every category and profession.

Wishes for a robust new year.

Dec. 29 2009 11:44 AM
Brian from Bronxville, NY

I was unfriended for oversharing which caused my distracted driving because infosnacking, listening to podcasts and lamenting my transparency made me feel like a tween or like I was having a senior moment.

Dec. 29 2009 11:42 AM
Nina from Village

I would have thought that "grass station" referred to the proliferation of legal marijuana pharmacies in California.

Dec. 29 2009 11:41 AM
Jean Freely from NYC

Probably not in Websters... How about the word "hater"? I have heard "he is such a hater" or "she is hating on.." this or that. (I really hate this usage/expression btw...)

Jean F.

Dec. 29 2009 11:37 AM
tori from ct

The most terrible words of the decade.
English is not my first language so I apologize for any grammatical mistakes. However, I do speak 4 languages and admire the beauty of the English language. But in the last year a terrible pandemic had affected the English. The “YOU KNOW”. Unfortunately, this involuntary, unnecessary “brain fart” (another new term by the way, a useful one) is affecting even the best speakers. I once had the terrible experience of hearing one of the WNYC highly respected broadcaster using “YOU KNOW” 4 times in a row, in one sentence, that obviously didn’t say much. Please stop this terrible annoying habit, that doesn’t say much about the inelegance of the speaker. If you ran out of words, just shut up, take a second to think, or even use the old fashion EH…. , if Obama use it you can too. And by the way, NO I don’t know!

Dec. 29 2009 11:35 AM
Teresa from New York

the word future is almost never used anymore- "going forward" (sadly) has taken its place.

Dec. 29 2009 11:32 AM
laura from monmouth cty, nj

just turned on the radio and caught your station and this discussion
fyi- the word random came into heavy popular use with kids first ( of course) at least 6 years ago.
it's usage seems to be more like a steroidal effect on the true definition.
i think because of the connectivity and immediateness of technology these years, sharing thoughts as they stream into ones consciousness allows for a lot more "random-ness".

merriam webster: at random : without definite aim, direction, rule, or method . example-subjects chosen at random

Dec. 29 2009 11:31 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

What about 'reverse commute'? Does the word 'commute' have an implicit directionality? I don't think so. I've never liked the word 'reverse commute' and the same goes for the more controversial 'reverse racism.'

Dec. 29 2009 11:29 AM
Dimitra Kessenides from NY, NY

Among the top of the "worst" phrases used more in 2009- "teachable moment."

Dec. 29 2009 11:26 AM
vanessa from brooklyn

i've noticed the use of the word "reticent" when i think the word "hesitant" is meant. for example: i was reticent to add salt when i hadn't yet tasted the food. i hear it everywhere, but most irksomely by newscasters and media folk.

Dec. 29 2009 11:25 AM

A possible popular culture reference from which "so random" came is the HBO TV show Summer Heights High:

The main character used it to describe public school: "Public school is so random."

Dec. 29 2009 11:25 AM
Steve from Brooklyn

I've noticed my 19 year old cousin says 'random' when she wants to convey something is unexpected. I've taken a lot of statistics classes, and I know a random event need not be rare. My cousin will say misapply 'random' when others might misapply the word 'ironic,' so it could be worse.

Dec. 29 2009 11:25 AM
Robin Sigman from Port Washington, NY

New word usage from my 12-year-old daughter & friends: shot as in "I shot front seat." Or "shot first" meaning I get dibs on the seat or going first. And if it's to turn something down, the phrase is "shot not." Perhaps this is from calling riding shotgun to get the front seat?

Dec. 29 2009 11:24 AM
Dave Lewis from NYC

The use of the word "optics" to mean visual images. It's all over cable news.

Dec. 29 2009 11:22 AM
John Celardo from Fanwood, NJ

My least favorite two-word phrase that's used ubiquitously by restaurant servers in responst to thank you. "No problem!" Yuck!

Dec. 29 2009 11:21 AM
Teresa from New York

yes- random is used a lot by teenagers, as well as the word legitimate. an example- "this random person was legitimately pushing his way into the store."

Dec. 29 2009 11:20 AM
peter from Brooklyn

What I want to know is: is my unfriend's unfriend my friend?

Dec. 29 2009 11:19 AM
BL Moderator from Varick St. Studios

[[Just a reminder, be sure to post your entries to the contest on the BL Show blog - there's a link above. Thanks!
-BL Show-]]

Dec. 29 2009 08:07 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.