Posted on December 7, 2010


The following piece was first published in The Enthusiast.


In a move that will no doubt confirm some people’s suspicions about US English, the New Oxford American Dictionary‘s Word of the Year for 2010 isn’t even a word. Refudiate – renowned intellect Sarah Palin’s mangling of refute and repudiate into one Frankenstein of a malamanteau – beat gleek (a fan of the TV show Glee), nom nom (an expression of the deliciousness of food) and vuvuzela (a deafening torture device that resembles a trumpet) for the honours.

Making the announcement on the Oxford University Press blog in mid-November, the editors clarified that refudiate, although the “unquestionable buzzword of 2010”, was not being added to the dictionary. “Currently, there are no definite plans to include refudiate in the New Oxford American Dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, or any of our other dictionaries,” they wrote. “We have many lexicographers [who] carefully track the evolution of the English language. If a word becomes common enough (as did last year’s Word Of The Year, unfriend), they will consider adding it to one (or several) of the dictionaries we publish. As for refudiate, well, I’m not yet sure that it will be includiated.”

So what did the dictionary’s lexicographers deem fit for inclusiation? Say hello to the newly validated dictionary definitions of BFF (a person’s best friend), TTYL (talk to you later) and LMAO (laughing my ass off). What, no OMG?!*

Adding steam to refudiate’s future chances for a dictionary berth, however, is the lexicographers’ decision to give a stamp of approval to truthiness, coined by Stephen Colbert in the pilot episode of The Colbert Report in 2005. (Well, he coined it “in the modern sense” that is now listed in the dictionary.)

Among the other new dictionary additions are tramp stamp, steampunk, wardrobe malfunction, lipstick lesbian and turducken, a uniquely Septic meal of turd chicken inside a duck inside a turkey. If Americans are willing to swallow that, surely they’ll follow with the truthiness of refudiate.

Before you accuse of me of being anti-American, I’ll note that things are hardly less cheeseball in the motherland. The English Oxford’s 2010 Word Of The Year isn’t a word either; it’s two words: big society (the flagship Tory policy during the 2010 UK election), which they chose because it’s “a mirror of the times” and its “success within a short period of time has been impressive” – in Britain only, obviously, reaffirming that even in a global world, the global language is still very localised.

Speaking of localised, our official Word of the Year won’t be revealed until January, because Australians apparently know the typical year ends at the end of December, not halfway through November. The gun jumping by the Yanks and the Poms gives us a chance to run a last-month push on collapsanomics, screwage, bum boarding, landphoon, freemium, angel peach, meow meow, binge listening or terrorist chic – all of which are in contention for Macquarie Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2010.

Unlike our hemispheric opposites, Australia’s national dictionary won’t consider a word for the year’s top billing unless it has actually earned a place in the book. Also unlike our friends across the pond, Macquarie’s annual top word doesn’t have to be one that anybody’s ever heard before. Last year it was shovel-ready; in 2007 pod slurping took the honours.

The beauty of Macquarie’s version, however, is that it’s democratic. Well, you can suggest a word for candidacy via the Add-a-Word page on their website, and even if the editors don’t agree, they run a People’s Choice vote each year. For predicting last year’s popular winner, tweet (via Twitter, of course), I won a dead-tree copy of the dictionary and thesaurus. It paid for itself that time the internet went down.

* OMG! OMG must have been added previously, LOL!

Posted in: Words