Thursday, January 24, 2013

Word Thursday

The 2012 word of the year in America was hashtag, which is a good word in terms of sound and suggestion, even though what it denotes is a yawner. Soundwise, with its two tight /ae/s, it is like a dentist asking you to open wide, twice. In terms of meaning, hash evokes aromatic resins and potato products, while tag suggests it's for sale, used. Still, the hashtag itself, referring to the # symbol used on twitter posts, is kind of a sad comment as word of the year, I think. To use two more /ae/s, #flashinthepan.

Germany also had a word of the year: Rettungsroutine. Like hashtag, it’s a compound word consisting of Rettung, or rescue, and Routine, the same in English. Specifically it means going through the never-ending motions of rescuing the eurozone with summits, pep talks, bailout money, and warnings about austerity. 

Germany also had an “unword” of the year, which a jury of linguists chooses as the year’s worst or most unfortunate word. In 2012 it was Opferabo. Once again, it’s a compound word. (I guess it’s tough to get attention as a free-standing word anymore.) Opferabo literally means “victim subscription,” or “subscription to victimization.” It started with a weatherman who was accused of rape, who said that in society women enjoyed a sort of “victimization coupon,” their image as perennial victims being an ace up their sleeve that allows them to accuse men of abuse. 

The jury chose Opferabo as the eye-rolling word of the year because it stereotypes women as sly users trying to take advantage of a perceived disadvantage, while ignoring the fact that only a small percentage of women who are sexually abused or raped ever actually report it.

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