Nine Words That Sum Up 2010


This has been the newsiest year that I can remember. So many major events were going on all over the world, it was often exhausting just to keep track of them. Horrible tragedies, heart-warming triumphs, political roller coasters, shocking secrets - 2010 had it all. "May you live in interesting times," goes the curse. Part of me hopes that 2011 is not as interesting as its predecessor. Happy New Year!

  1. Haiti. The terrible earthquake that wracked this dirt-poor country in January brought the Haitian people's long-term suffering out in the open. Nations across the world gave generously to help, but it will be a long time before Haiti has a chance at stability.
  2. Obamacare. 2010 was a particularly political year for the United States, not only with the November elections (see below) but with all the legislation that passed - some against extreme reluctance. But it may be the Health Care Reform bill - derided as "Obamacare" by those on the right who opposed it the most - that will stand as the most significant law that passed in this or any recent year.
  3. Eyjafjallajökull. This is the nearly unpronounceable name of the Icelandic volcano that spewed forth a great ash cloud over Europe last spring, bringing air traffic to a halt for days and stranding millions of travelers. The story may have been forgotten after the mountain quieted down, but it kept tiny Iceland's recent economic troubles in the spotlight, and while there may be no direct connection between the eruption and climate change, it was a reminder of the destructive power of nature out of control.
  4. BP. I'm cheating a little here, as BP is not a word but an acronym for British Petroleum, the company whose Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and created the biggest oil spill in U.S. history, releasing nearly 5 million barrels of oil over nearly three months before the well was capped.
  5. iPad. Nobody knew what an iPad was in 2009, because Apple hadn't named its groundbreaking tablet device yet. Today, everybody knows. Time will tell whether the iPad will thrive or establish a new way for people to interact with technology, but it's been a brisk seller thus far, and it's certainly a nifty little toy. Even my wife bought one, and she's not into gadgets at all.
  6. Vuvuzela. Truly a word that symbolizes 2010, this annoying buzzing plastic horn filled stadiums across South Africa to celebrate the World Cup, the biggest sporting event for most of the planet (this year even the Americans started to take an interest). The 2010 sports year was noteworthy for all the first-ever victories of underdog teams, from Spain's World Cup win to the New Orleans Saints' Superbowl triumph to the San Francisco Giants' World Series victory.
  7. Miners. Okay, I'm trying to limit each entry on this list to one word. "Chilean miners" would be more accurate, but you could probably guess what I was talking about from the one word. The tale of the thirty-three coal miners who were trapped underground for over two months before they were finally rescued was easily the feel-good story of the year.
  8. Shellacking. The Global Language Monitor's top 10 words for 2010 had "refudiate", Sarah Palin's unintentional portmanteau of "refute" and "repudiate", at the top of its list. While that word does symbolize a certain part of the 2010 news year - that of the so-called Tea Party that reveres the Alaskan governor-turned-celebrity pundit - I'm going to go with the end result of the anti-Democrat fervor that swept the U.S. this year, by using President Obama's term for the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives after the November election. This "shellacking" had its upside: it forced the Democrat-led Congress to pass a number of important pieces of legislation during its final two weeks in session, including a repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, health assistance for 9/11 first responders, a food safety act, and a nuclear arms treaty. Arguably, if it weren't for this shellacking, Congress might have sat on its collective ass and never got around to enacting any of these laws.
  9. WikiLeaks. We have only seen the tip of the iceberg in the massive amount of secret diplomatic cables released by the entity known as WikiLeaks, run by divisive Australian Julian Assange, a Central Casting Bond villain who dominated the media landscape during the last few months of 2010 and is sure to remain a major figure in 2011 as debate rages over his right to release so much classified information to the global public.