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“Tender-age shelter” is 2018 American Dialect Society word of the year

January 4th, 2019 § Comments Off on “Tender-age shelter” is 2018 American Dialect Society word of the year § permalink

SHERATON TIMES SQUARE HOTEL, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK—JAN. 4—In its 29th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted for tender-age shelter (also tender-age facility or tender-age camp) as the Word of the Year for 2018. The term, which has been used in a euphemistic fashion for the government-run detention centers that have housed the children of asylum seekers at the U.S./Mexico border, was selected as best representing the public discourse and preoccupations of the past year.

Presiding at the Jan. 4 voting session was Ben Zimmer, chair of the American Dialect Society’s New Words Committee and language columnist for the Wall Street Journal.

The term tender-age shelter/facility/camp first emerged in June 2018 when it was reported that infants and young children were being held in special detention centers after being separated from their families who crossed over the southern border, some illegally.

“The use of highly euphemistic language to paper over the human effects of family separation was an indication of how words in 2018 could be weaponized for political necessity,” Zimmer said. “But the bureaucratic phrasing ended up backfiring, as reports of the term served to galvanize opposition to the administration’s border policy.”

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 130-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 “Jamal Kashoggi” as Name of the Year for 2018 in its fourteenth 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 2018 Word of the Year posted

January 4th, 2019 § Comments Off on Nominations for 2018 Word of the Year posted § permalink

Nominations for the 2018 word of the year have been posted. The final vote will be held at 5 p.m. EST, Friday, January 4th, at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel in New York City, Empire Ballroom.

You can still make nominations in person when the final vote will be taken. Nominations should be some or all of the following: widely used, new or newly popular, significant to the happenings of 2018, indicative of public discourse and national preoccupations in 2018. Single words, phrases, compounds, catch phrases, hashtags, emoji, and other types of brief written or spoken communication are accepted as nominations.

American Dialect Society 2018 Words of the Year

NOMINATIONS to be voted on by the American Dialect Society, Jan. 4, 2019, New York, NY


  • blue wave: major Democratic electoral gain
  • caravan: procession of Central American asylum seekers to US/Mexico border
  • lodestar: guiding principle (used in op/ed by anonymous White House staffer)
  • nationalist: displaying a staunch belief in one’s own nation (used by Trump and supporters)
  • (the) wall: proposed barrier along the US/Mexico border to prevent illegal crossings


  • blackfishing: pretending to be black on social media by using makeup and hair products
  • deepfake: realistic digitally composed video used to misrepresent someone
  • demonetize: remove ads from a YouTube channel to deprive the creator of revenue
  • finsta: fake Instagram account
  • techlash: backlash against tech innovators


  • big dick energy: calm, unassuming attitude
  • canceled: firmly rejected or dismissed
  • mood, big mood: strong emotion of agreement
  • weird flex but OK: rejoinder to improper boast
  • yeet: indication of surprise or excitement


  • himpathy: flow of sympathy away from female victims toward their male victimizers
  • orbiting: ending communication with someone while still monitoring them on social media
  • preferred pronoun: pronoun that a person opts to use for himself/herself/themself/etc.
  • situationship: undefined personal relationship
  • Voldemorting: avoiding mention of unpleasant person or topic by using a replacement term


  • cli-fi: science fiction relating to climate change
  • climate grief: negative feelings caused by climate-change-related weather events
  • hothouse Earth: runaway global warming
  • single-use: to be used once and destroyed


  • girther: person skeptical of the president’s reported weight and height
  • procrasti-: related to procrastination
  • today years old: indication that someone has just recently learned something
  • treasonweasel: epithet for a traitorous person
  • white caller crime: white people calling police on black people for doing mundane things


  • executive time: presidential down-time
  • Individual 1: pseudonym for Trump in documents from the Mueller investigation
  • racially charged: circumlocution for “racist”
  • tender-age camp/shelter/facility: government detention center for asylum-seekers’ children


  • emotional support peacock: therapy animal that airline passenger tried to bring on board
  • incel: involuntary celibate (online subculture)
  • shithole countries: Trump’s epithet for places he does not want to accept immigrants from
  • soy boy: term for a man perceived as not conforming to male gender stereotypes


  • #neveragain: call for gun-control measures after the Parkland shooting
  • #nottheonion: reporting something true that seems like satire from The Onion
  • #thankunext: expressing gratitude and readiness to move on (from Ariana Grande)
  • #timesup: movement protesting sexual assault


  • 🦞: lobster (adopted by trans community)
  • 💅: nail polish (indicating air of nonchalance)
  • 🤦: facepalm (indicating exasperation, disbelief)
  • 🤔: thinking face (indicating bemused pondering)


Nominations to be made at final meeting.

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