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Refudiate the top word of 2010? The good, the bad and the ridiculous from the global language survey

By Katie Rogers
Ah, the horn we all love to hate. The word "vuvuzela" was one of the most popular uttered by English speakers this year, according to a new survey. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images).
"A good newspaper," Arthur Miller observed in 1961, "is a nation talking to itself."

Nearly 50 years later, Miller's missive still rings true -- though now that we're no longer constricted to a once-a-day paper, the conversation's moving fast enough for us to need a list to help remember what was worth talking about in the first place. That's where the Global Language Monitor Survey comes in handy. The Texas-based survey uses a math formula to track the frequency of words and phrases in the English-speaking world of more than 1.58 billion people.

Remember good old H1N1? That topped the list in 2009, along with Twitter and Obama. Now swine flu is but a distant memory.

Let's hope the same can be said for this year's winner. One "spillcam" a generation is just fine by me.

What other words made the cut in 2010?

Sharing top honors with spillcam is "vuvuzela," a word that once was so lilting and foreign almost no one in this newsroom could pronounce it. But it began rolling off the tongue as the World Cup progressed, our ear drums stressed and Paul the Octopus (R.I.P.) started hedging bets.

Other popular words and phrases this year (brace yourselves):

  • "Refudiate"* (Now word of the year from Oxford American Dictionary.)
  • "Chilean coal miners"
  • "Anger and rage"
  • "Tea Party"
  • "Lady Gaga"
  • "3D [movies]"
  • "Great recession"
  • "Jersey Shore"

If you (like me) bemoan a word like "refudiate," topping a most-used list, there's still hope. Melissa tipped me off to Save the Words, an online word adoption program where you can take an old word back from the brink of extinction.

I'm proposing we adopt a word and use it in a sentence about 2010.

I adopted sevidical, which means "speaking cruel and harsh words." I know. Too easy:

"The 2010 campaign season was full of sevidical lobs from both sides of the aisle, but everyone did agree that the rent is, in fact, too damn high."

Now it's your turn. Can you use a word like "sinapstic" -- consisting of mustard -- or "labascate" -- to fall or slip -- to describe the top news stories of 2010? Take your best shot and use #topwords to respond.

By Katie Rogers  | November 15, 2010; 2:10 PM ET
Categories:  Your Take  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The nine eyes of Google Street View (Photos)
Next: Plastic bags pollute, reusable bags poison. Great.


If Sarah Palin becomes president, we can expect a whole series of Palinprops which might be added to the language.

Posted by: BillS4 | November 16, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

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