In a season marked by annual traditions, one tradition far less festive but just as perennial is the assemblage of lexicographers emerging from their dusty confines to announce their Words of the Year, forever enshrined in your dictionary of choice.
The Oxford and Merriam-Webster folks offer their lists, based on metrics subjective and objective, then leave it to whoever is interested to decide which word or list of words is more interesting than the other. Media outlets then create Web pages that entice you to look at the list – called “clickbait,” because if there’s one thing that gets us clicking Web links, it’s a link for lists.
Atop the Oxford list was “vape,” an abbreviation of vapor, or, as the Brits spell it, vapour. Vape means “to inhale and exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.” Translation: You’re smoking an e-cigarette. Duh!
Merriam-Webster chose a word already in the dictionary, “culture,” apparently because so many of us searched for it online this year. Not for the definition but because pop culture is most popular among Web surfers.
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Give Oxford credit for trying to create a new word, but neither dictionary deserves credit for creativity given the enormous opportunity to craft words desperately needed to describe the absurdities of 2014. To wit, I humbly present a list – yes, potential clickbait – of words and phrases we’d like to have seen:
Fauxtest – Protesting in communities where everyone already agrees with you. In early December, protesters of the Ferguson, Mo., grand jury decision shut down the BART station in West Oakland for several hours. Because if there’s one place to express outrage over white cops you think are racist, it’s in a neighborhood that’s 77 percent African American. Martin Luther King Jr. protested against segregation in Birmingham, Ala., a cradle of segregation. That’s a protest. West Oakland? That was a fauxtest.
Realignmess – What our prison realignment actually is.
Stormanoia – Mental disorder characterized by systematized media hyperventilating over an impending weather system of apocalyptic proportions that turns out to be … rain. And now, over to the Storm Desk …
Overdrive time – Expanded DMV hours to meet the demand of undocumented immigrants seeking driver’s licenses, resulting in employees going from working 35 minutes a day to an entire hour.
Selfabrandizement – Candidates in an election carrying out publicity campaigns to attract media attention despite lacking the substance, skill or talent to warrant such a public presence.
Plastrionics – Exaggerated, overemotional reaction to California’s plastic bag ban.
Immigroan – When a town declares Sriracha sauce a “public nuisance” so the company CEO, who escaped communist Vietnam, can say that California reminds him too much of home.
Sriracharize – Take product. Add label with flames on it. Profit.
Drapartitioner – Supporter of Tim Draper’s proposition to split up California, the state’s version of Ayn Rand’s Galt’s Gulch fantasy.
Distractive surgery – Cosmetic surgery that makes you forget Renée Zellweger isn’t all that much as an actress.
Click farmer – A low-paid worker employed to click on particular parts of Web pages, especially approval buttons in social media, as a way of making businesses on Yelp seem popular.
Donneration – Celebration that ensues after hikers lost in California mountains are found before they became the next Donner party.
Dunderhead party – That group of hikers who got “lost” in mountains 15 miles from Los Angeles, but really were just tired and called on a cellphone to be helicoptered out.
Obsessifuscation – A preoccupation with speaking in tongues to make a metaphysical point that no one understands. See Jerry Brown.
Quadranoia – Drumming up voter fear to prevent a fourth term for Jerry Brown. See Neel Kashkari.
Delta tunnel vision – Everybody complaining that everyone is misleading everyone else in the Delta tunnel debate without admitting that they’re misleading everyone, too.
Vendebta – The price we wish past politicians would pay for all these pension deals they struck that they aren’t around to pay for when the bill comes due.
Spinsurance – What insurers say, compared to what they do. See Proposition 45.
Lip-service patriots – Militia types claiming to “protect the border,” or hanging out at Cliven Bundy’s ranch to “protect our freedoms.” Dear gun-toter: You protected nothing. Go back to the target range.
Technorruption – When someone you’re talking to stops everything to check for messages on his cellphone. Dear person: You’re a loser.