At the 2015 meeting of the Linguistic Society of America in Portland last month, the American Dialect Society conducted its 25th annual Word of the Year vote. For the first time a hashtag, #blacklivesmatter, was selected as the overall winner.
Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee of the American Dialect Society, said, “While #blacklivesmatter may not fit the traditional definition of a word, it demonstrates how powerfully a hashtag can convey a succinct social message. Language scholars are paying attention to the innovative linguistic force of hashtags, and #blacklivesmatter was certainly a forceful example of this in 2014.” The hashtag took on special significance after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Erich Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., and the failure of grand juries to indict police officers in both cases. Fueled by social media, it became a rallying cry and a vehicle for expressing protest.
In addition to the Word of the Year, ADS also selected words in a number of categories: Most Useful (even), Most Creative (columbusing), Most Unnecessary (baeless), Most Outrageous (second-amendment), Most Euphemistic (EIT), Most Likely to Succeed (salty), and Least Likely to Succeed (platisher). Two years ago, the society voted hashtag Word of the Year. This year, not only was an actual hashtag chosen as Word of the Year, but a special new category, Most Notable Hashtag, was created. #blacklivesmatter also won in that category.
For a full list of American Dialect Society Words of the Year, and a description of the selected words, visit http://americandialect.org/woty.