I learned this from the first lecture in the Great Course "The Secret Life of Words" by Prof. Anne Curzan of the University of Michigan. She also introduced me to the comforting word "Recombobulation". You know that feeling is disorganization and upset you sometimes have just after passing thru airport security. Your wallet, keys and cellphone are in a tray that you are trying to carry off to the side without spilling it or dropping your backpack or your computer. You also have to carry your shoes to a place you can put them on without being in the path of traffic. If you are a guy, your belt is in the same tray so you need to pay attention to holding your pants up. Step to the recombobulation area and get dis-discombobulated. You will feel lots better.
Prof. Curzan says that the word of the year is decided on at a convention held in January. The word of the year for 2012 is "occupy" as in "Occupy Wall Street".
One of the things that attracted me to her course is the very wide range of words that she discusses, including words of sports, cuss words, and words used in love. If you look up the American Dialect Society you can see the words of the year for the past decade and more.
At the convention of 1999, there was political jostling to decide on the word of the millenium, just ending that year. The winner of several ballots was "she". The wikipedia says:
In 1789, William H. Marshall records the existence of a dialectal English epicene pronoun, singular "ou": "'Ou will' expresses either he will, she will, or it will." Marshall traces "ou" to Middle English epicene "a", used by the 14th century English writer John of Trevisa, and both the OED and Wright's English Dialect Dictionary confirm the use of "a" for he, she, it, they, and even I. This "a" is a reduced form of the Anglo-Saxon he = "he" and heo = "she". By the 12th and 13th centuries, these had often weakened to a point where, according to the OED, they were "almost or wholly indistinguishable in pronunciation." The modern feminine pronoun she, which first appears in the mid twelfth century, seems to have been drafted at least partly to reduce the increasing ambiguity of the pronoun system…
Now isn't that just what you were interested in finding out on this last day of the year?
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