Nine Words That Sum Up 2008


What a year, eh folks? I can't wait for it to be over. Myself, I did all right. Didn't make much money, but made more than I could have. Didn't get sick. Shot a couple of short films, got some interesting jobs. But the economy tanked, lots of people everywhere lost a lot of money, and there's nowhere to go but up. (Can you imagine the pressure on Barack Obama to turn this all around? Yikes.) Anyway, the New Oxford American Dictionary named "hypermiling" the word of the year. I had never even heard of this word before their announcement, and certainly don't know anyone who's ever used it. These are the nine words that I would choose instead:

  1. Staycation. The portmanteau of the year, this clever word sums up the plight of the American traveler: with gas prices at an all-time high this summer, and the dollar in the toilet, more and more people decided to stay at home this year. Hence the word.
  2. Bailout. Merriam-Webster agrees with me here. I'm referring, of course, to the billions of dollars the US government gave to Wall Street firms in order to supposedly keep the economy from total collapse and ruin. Is it working? Did we need it? Ask an economist – in twenty years.
  3. Fail. Without question, this year's most faddish Internet word was "fail" used a noun, e.g., "Your attempt at a joke was a total fail." This supplanted the trendy Internet term of 2007, which was "FTW" (for the win), which was sort of used in place of "rules". In other words, "Mark rules!" would translate as "Mark FTW!" and that acronym would be considered a fail today.
  4. Maverick. If there's one person who represented what was new and noteworthy in 2008 (I am hoping Obama will cover 2009 through 2016), it was vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who came out of nowhere (read: Alaska) and sucked up the limelight like there was no tomorrow. Her doomed campaign with presidential hopeful John McCain centered itself around the word "maverick", which Palin threw around to the point of self-parody.
  5. Rickrolled. Back to the Internet – the only thing I know about, it seems – for the prank of the year: sending a friend a link to a site, only for the link to open up a video of Rick Astley's 1987 hit "Never Gonna Give You Up", usually with the announcement, "You got Rickrolled!" I might not have included this, had not this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Parade Rickrolled itself by having Astley suddenly leap onto a float to sing the song, introducing the term to millions of Web-unsavvy Americans.
  6. Twitter. This website has been around since 2006, but it finally hit big this year, when people decided they liked the idea of "microblogging" – posting little reports about their minute-by-minute activities for anybody who cares to read them. I'm not usually wrong about what's going to be a hit, but I sure missed this goldmine. When I first heard about Twitter I didn't think it would go anywhere. Boy, was I wrong.
  7. Greenwashing. A play on "whitewashing", this word is used for companies who fraudulently market themselves as environmentally friendly. Apt for a year that started off as being all about the business of ecology, and wound up as a litany of corporate malfeasance and thievery.
  8. Twilight. For entertainment, I was torn. "Batmania", perhaps? After all, The Dark Knight was the biggest hit movie of the year, tinged by one of the biggest, saddest stories to come out of Hollywood, that of costar Heath Ledger's shocking death. But I'm giving the nod to Stephenie Meyer's enormously popular Twilight series of teenage vampire books. Although they were all bestsellers before 2008, the series didn't become a household name until this year, thanks to the release of Twilight the movie and the publication of the fourth and final book in the series. The Dark Knight was more popular, but it never attracted the insane cult following of Meyer's books, which got more teenage girls (and their moms) to sit down and read a novel than even J.K. Rowling could muster.
  9. Game-changer. The obnoxious corporate/political term of the year, ranking right down there with past honorees like "ping me" and "at the end of the day". This was used to describe anything new and possibly important, from, well, Sarah Palin to Twitter.