At the American Dialect Society annual meeting in Baltimore next January, not only will the Society choose Words of the Year just past, but members and friends will also have the solemn responsibility of choosing a Word of the Decade 2000–2009.
Until most of 2009 is over, judgment about the top words of 2009 will have to wait. But since the decade is nearly over, it is not too early to consider which word best reflects this volatile ten-year period.
Candidates will include the ADS Word of the Year for each year, though the choice for Word of the Decade need not be limited to them. Some of them pervaded the whole decade, but others characterized only their particular year. These were the Words of the Year, many of which now require explanation:
2000 chad, a small scrap of paper punched from a voting card.
2001 9/11, terrorist attacks on September 11.
2002 weapons of mass destruction or WMD, sought for (without success) in Iraq.
2003 metrosexual, fashion-conscious heterosexual male.
2004 red/blue/purple states, red favoring conservative Republicans and blue favoring liberal Democrats, as well as the undecided purple states in the political map of the United States.
2005 truthiness, what one wishes to be the truth regardless of the facts. (From the Colbert Report on television.)
2006 to be plutoed, to pluto, to be demoted or devalued, as was the former planet Pluto.
2007 subprime, a risky or less than ideal loan or investment.
2008 bailout, rescue by government of companies on the brink of failure.
The American Dialect Society was established in 1889 to study the English language in North America. It has been choosing Words of the Year since 1990, and Words of the Decade since 2000. In 2000 the Word of the Decade was web. (That year the Society also chose Word of the Century, jazz, and Word of the Millennium, she.)
More information on Words of the Year is available at the American Dialect Society website, http://www.americandialect.org/woty/.