The American Dialect Society has chosen its word of the year. This year, the winner was “hashtag”, “a word or phrase preceded by a hash symbol (#), used on Twitter to mark a topic or make a commentary”. In other categories:
- Most Useful was “-(po)calypse, -(ma)geddon”, suffixes used to describe various (nearly) catastrophic events.
- Most Creative was “gate lice”, a crowd of airline travellers congregating near a gate so they can board the plane.
- Most Unnecessary was “legitimate rape”, that term used by a misogynist who I’m fucking glad isn’t a US Senator.
- Most Outrageous was “legitimate rape” (looks like we have a double winner).
- Most Euphemistic was “self–deportation”, the act of encouraging undocumented immigrants to return home.
- Most Likely to Succeed was “marriage equality”, namely same–sex marriage. As I and others have been using this term for years, I’d say that it’s already well on its way to success.
- Least Like to Succeed was “phablet”, an electronic device midway between a phone and tablet in size.
- Election Words was “binders (full of women)”, as used by Mitt Romney to describe the resumes of women he considered hiring when he ran Massachusetts.
In a companion vote, the American Name Society (the ADS’s sibling organization) chose “Sandy” (after the hurricane) as its Name of the Year.
I just found this ridiculous rant concerning punctuation. The guts of that post is that English punctuation is illogical because we don’t use Spanish–style inverted question marks to begin questions (and, mutatis mutandis, inverted exclamation points). By reading his rant you’ll notice that the writer seems not to know the difference between a tag question and a tag itself. The reason for his belief is that it is confusing to rely on context to determine when a question begins. The fact that he makes such a claim shows why he has no clue what he’s talking about.
What happens when you ask a question in the English language? In almost all cases, either you invert the subject and an auxiliary verb (if there’s no auxiliary, add one), or you do the preceding and also begin with one of the wh–words. The main difference between the two question forms is that the former is a yes–no (or polar) question, while the latter is a wh (or non–polar) question. The other form is a tag question. Tag questions are a semantically a subtype of yes–no questions. Let’s look at examples:
- (Declarative): You went to the store.
- (Polar) Did you go to the store?
- (Wh) Where did you go?
- (Tag) You went to the store, didn’t you?
What do wh– and yes–no questions have in common? The first word(s) (or implicitly, the word order) in either of them indicate that the following sentence is a question. In other words, the beginning of these sentences indicates that what follows is a question. Hence, there is no need for a beginning of sentence question–marking punctuation mark because the words and word order already do that. Tag questions are rare enough that they won’t need special punctuation rules. Indeed, in speech, tag questions have no “marker” at the beginning that tells us a question is coming, but this in no way hinders our ability to make ourselves understood. The same applies to writing.
This post has been edited for clarity.
The American Dialect Society has chosen its words of the year and word of the decade.
- The word of the decade was “google”, meaning to search the internet.
- The word of the year was “tweet”, meaning a short message sent through Twitter, or the act of so doing.
- Most Useful was “fail”, as in “FAIL”.
- Most Creative was “Dracula sneeze”, the act of sneezing into your elbow.
- Most Unnecessary was “sea kittens”, PETA’s euphemism for fish.
- Most Outrageous was “death panel”, those non–existent committees of doctors that will euthanize your grandma (thank you Sarah).
- Most Euphemistic was “hike the Appalachian Trail”, to have sex with a secret lover.
- Most Likely to Succeed was “twenty–ten”, the name of the year 2010.
- Least Likely to Succeed was any term used to refer to the last decade.