The American Dialect Society, a 124-year-old organization whose members include "linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, editors, students, and independent scholars," chose their word of the year for 2012, and, lo and behold, it's "hashtag." I think the Internet just imploded.
The relatively tongue-in-cheek awards are given each year and also include categories like Most Useful, Most Creative, Most Unnecessary, Most Outrageous, Most Euphemistic and so on. "This was the year when the hashtag became a ubiquitous phenomenon in online talk," Ben Zimmer, chair of the New Words Committee, said in a release. "In the Twittersphere and elsewhere, hashtags have created instant social trends, spreading bite-sized viral messages on topics ranging from politics to pop culture."
Hashtag is, for the uninitiated, a Twitter practice of putting a pound sign (#) in front of a word as a means of making it easier to search. Twitter uses the hashtag to determine lists of trending stories and Twitter users make regular use of it for everything from memes to news events and everything in between.
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Other Internet words and acronyms on the list include YOLO (annoying acronym for You Only Live Once), Gangnam Style, feels (another annoying Internet slang term for "feelings") and MOOC (Massive Online Open Course),
The list is a relatively silly one that mostly involves popular slang from the previous year. With the presidential election, naturally a number of political words and phrases like legitimate rape, fiscal cliff and 47 percent were on the list. Other words fell into a strange almost UrbanDictionary-like world including beardruff (beard dandruff? Ew!), gate lice (people who crowd around gates at airports waiting to board an airplane) and cray-cray.
You can view the entire list of nominees and awards on the organization's website.