"The Word Maven" on the Words of 2017 and the Language of Commerce

Jan 2, 2018

The Oxford Dictionaries declared "youthquake" as its Word of the Year for 2017, although we found out that it was  originally coined in about 1965 by the fashion industry.  This hour, host Charity Nebbe speaks again with our "Word Maven," Patricia O'Conner, proprietor of the popular language blog, "Grammarphobia."  O'Conner is the author of a number of language books, including "Woe is I," "Words Fail Me," and "Origins of the Specious."

So what use are the unofficial "Words of the Year"?   O'Conner told us that a lot of it is just free publicity for the publishers of dictionaries.  Now she says newspapers, especially in Great Britain, are picking their words of the year, obscure as they might be.  One such paper announced that their word was "covfefe," actually a typo tweeted by Donald Trump.  "Some of the Word of the Year stuff gets a little far afield," O'Conner said.  We learn during the hour that according to Merriam-Webster's, "feminism" was the most searched-for word in its on-line dictionary, up seventy percent from 2016.  O'Conner is also looking forward to the upcoming list of notable words issued by the American Dialect Society, where she told us "fake news" may very well top the list.

You'll enjoy hearing our many listeners who called in to express their thoughts about their language peeves and their thoughts on some of the new words and expressions that popped up in 2017.  Later in the hour, we talk about the language of retailing, especially important during the holiday season.  Who knew that the term "white sale," always popular in January ads, originated in the late 19th century.   And there's a "brown goods" as well, which later came to mean electrical appliances such as radios and phonographs which were mostly housed in brown plastic, or bakelite cases.