The word of the year is: Hashtag

American Dialect Society | Visual Thesaurus

In a vote for 2012's Word of the Year on Friday evening, “the slate filled with some expected choices, such as YOLO, fiscal cliff, 47 percent, and Gangnam style," writes Ben Zimmer, linguist and chair of the American Dialect Society's New Words Committee:

But it came down to a runoff between the Most Likely to Succeed winner, marriage equality, and a new nominee: hashtag. Though hashtag has been around for a few years now (first used on Twitter in 2007), it's fair to say that 2012 was the Year of the Hashtag. Hashtagging became so popular that the practice spread to other social media, and hashtag could sometimes be heard in oral use introducing a snappy metacommentary on what had just been said. And as Dennis Baron pointed out, this was also the year that a baby was named Hashtag.

Tallies for the final vote (the second figure refers to the runoff):

  • YOLO: acronym for “You Only Live Once,” often used sarcastically or self-deprecatingly - 32
  • fiscal cliff: threat of spending cuts and tax increases looming over end-of-year budget negotiations - 25
  • *#hashtag: a word or phrase preceded by a hash symbol (#), used on Twitter to mark a topic or make a commentary - 45/118
  • Gangnam style: the trendy style of Seoul’s Gangnam district, as used in the Korean pop song of the same name - 19
  • marriage equality: legal recognition of same-sex marriage - 57/99
  • 47 percent: portion of the population that does not pay federal income tax - 31

Zimmer notes that the winner came from the tech world for the third time in four years. Like previous tech winners tweet (in 2009) and app (in 2010), "hashtag ultimately was the Society's choice despite not being on the initial list of nominations, receiving a groundswell of support at the end," he wrote.

Zimmer's early favorite for Word of the Year -- "double down" -- also didn't make the list of nominations.


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