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2019 Word of the Year is “(My) Pronouns,” Word of the Decade is Singular “They”

January 3rd, 2020 § Comments Off on 2019 Word of the Year is “(My) Pronouns,” Word of the Decade is Singular “They” § permalink

HILTON NEW ORLEANS RIVERSIDE, NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA—JAN. 3—In its 30th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted for “(my) pronouns” as its Word of the Year (2019) and singular “they” as its Word of the Decade (2010-2019). “(My) pronouns” was recognized for its use as an introduction for sharing one’s set of personal pronouns (as in “pronouns: she/her”), while singular “they” was recognized for its growing use to refer to a known person whose gender identity is nonbinary. Singular “they” was previously selected by the ADS as the 2015 Word of the Year.

Presiding at the Jan. 3 voting session was Ben Zimmer, chair of the American Dialect Society’s New Words Committee and language columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

“When a basic part of speech like the pronoun becomes a vital indicator of social trends, linguists pay attention,” Zimmer said. “The selection of “(my) pronouns” as Word of the Year speaks to how the personal expression of gender identity has become an increasing part of our shared discourse. That trend is also reflected in singular “they” being chosen as Word of the Decade, with a growing recognition of the use of they for those whose identities don’t conform to the binary of he and she.”

Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item”—not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year.

The vote is the longest-running such vote anywhere, the only one not tied to commercial interests, and the word-of-the-year event up to which all others lead. It is fully informed by the members’ expertise in the study of words, but it is far from a solemn occasion.

Members in the 131-year-old organization include linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, editors, students, and independent scholars. In conducting the vote, they act in fun and do not pretend to be officially inducting words into the English language. Instead, they are highlighting that language change is normal, ongoing, and entertaining.

In a companion vote, sibling organization the American Name Society voted “Arrokoth” (the name of a far-flung minor planet) as Name of the Year for 2019 in its fifteenth annual name-of-the-year contest.

Read the full press release, including all winners, candidates, and vote tallies for all candidates.

All previous years’ winners are listed here.

Nominations for Words of the Year 2019 and Words of the Decade 2010-2019

January 3rd, 2020 § Comments Off on Nominations for Words of the Year 2019 and Words of the Decade 2010-2019 § permalink

Nominations for Words of the Year 2019 and Words of the Decade 2010-2019 have been posted. The final vote will be held at 5 p.m. CST, Friday, January 3rd, at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, St. Charles Ballroom.

Words of the Year (2019) and Words of the Decade (2010-2019)

NOMINATIONS to be voted on by the American Dialect Society, Jan. 3, 2020, New Orleans, LA


  • #IMPOTUS: derogatory reference to Trump (IMPeached President Of The United States)
  • quid pro quo: exchange of favors (central to Trump/Ukraine impeachment scandal)
  • squad: nickname for four new House Democrats (Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley, Tlaib)
  • Trumpschmerz: suffering induced by constant updates about the Trump administration


  • ok boomer: retort to someone older expressing out-of-touch or condescending views
  • plant-based: made from plants, for food products marketed as meat alternatives
  • stan: to be devoted or enthusiastic about
  • zoomer: member of Generation Z


  • and I oop-: catchphrase of VSCO girls, expressing shock, surprise, or embarrassment (originally from a video by drag queen Jasmine Masters)
  • hot girl summer: a call to live one’s best life (after Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion)
  • zaddy: gender-neutral variation of “daddy” for an attractive older person with money


  • (X)-curious: interested in something (as in “bi-curious”)
  • gerrymeandering: drawing convoluted congressional district lines for political gain
  • nobody: : phrasal template mocking someone providing an unsolicited opinion
  • sksksk: keysmash exclamation, expressing laughter, awkwardness, or amazement


  • freedom gas / molecules of U.S. freedom: natural gas (used by Energy Dept. officials)
  • Heckboy: Hellboy (used on the marquee of a Tennessee movie theater)
  • people of means: rich people (used by Starbucks executive Howard Schultz)
  • self-partnered: single (used by Emma Watson)


  • 📠: facts (pun on “fax machine” emoji)
  • im🍑: emoji representation of “impeach”
  • VSCO girl: young woman who posts trendy pictures of herself on the VSCO photo app


  • ok boomer: retort to someone older expressing out-of-touch or condescending views
  • cancel: withdraw support from someone or something that is considered problematic or unacceptable
  • (my) pronouns: introduction for sharing one’s set of personal pronouns (“pronouns: she/her”)
  • Karen: stereotype of a complaining, self-important white woman, typically a member of Generation X (also “Generation Karen”)

WORD OF THE DECADE (2010-2019)

  • #BlackLivesMatter: expression of protest over police violence against African Americans
  • climate: used in phrases related to the impact of climate change, including “climate crisis,” “climate emergency,” and “climate strike”
  • emoji: small icon in electronic communication, used to convey information or emotional attitude, or as a playful substitution for words
  • meme: a shared cultural item in the form of a phrase, image, or video circulated online, often with humorous, creative alterations
  • #MeToo: expression of solidarity for women surviving sexual assault or harassment (coined by Tarana Burke)
  • opioid crisis: epidemic of opioid-related drug overdoses across the U.S.
  • selfie: a photograph that one takes of oneself, typically with a digital camera and shared on social media
  • they: gender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, particularly as a nonbinary identifier (“they,” “them,” themself”)
  • woke: socially aware, especially about issues of racial and social justice (also used negatively to mock ostensibly enlightened attitudes)

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