TIME language

Oxford Dictionaries Adds Janky, EGOT and Ridesharing

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From the dictionary that keeps track of modern usage

Oxford Dictionaries Online added hundreds of words and phrases to its online database Thursday, many of which reflect the technology-influenced world we live in.

This branch of the Oxford family is focused on modern usage: the language people are using now. And if the addition is any indication, we are talking a lot about tech — from ridesharing to bioprinting — not to mention using more abbreviations and acronyms as words.

Here are some highlights from the quarterly update, along with definitions:

AFAIC (abbrev.): abbreviation for ‘as far as I’m concerned.’

awk (adj.): of a situation, causing uneasy embarrassment; awkward or uncomfortable.

bioprinting (n.): the use of 3-D printing technology with materials that incorporate viable living cells, e.g., to produce tissue for reconstructive surgery.

colorblocking (n.): in fashion and design, the use of contrasting blocks or panels of solid, typically bright color.

data scientist (n.): a person employed to analyze and interpret complex digital data, such as the usage statistics of a website, especially in order to assist a business in its decisionmaking.

divey (adj.): of a bar or similar establishment, shabby or sleazy

EGOT (n.): the achievement of having won all four of the major American entertainment awards (i.e., an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony).

janky (adj.): of extremely poor or unreliable quality.

koozie (n.): an insulating sleeve used to keep a canned or bottled drink cold.

McTwist (n.): in skateboarding and snowboarding, an aerial maneuver in which the boarder spins one and a half times while holding the edge of the board with one hand.

party foul (n.): an act or instance of unpleasant or unacceptable behavior at a party or other social gathering.

patient zero (n.): used to refer to the person identified as the first carrier of a communicable disease in an outbreak of related cases.

ridesharing (v.): to participate in an arrangement in which a passenger travels in a private vehicle driven by its owner, for free or for a fee, especially as arranged by means of a website or app.

sharing economy (n.): an economic system in which assets or services are shared between private individuals, either for free or for a fee, typically by means of the Internet.

superfan (n.): a person who has an extreme or obsessive admiration for a particular person or thing.

teachable moment (n.): an event or experience that presents a good opportunity for learning something about a particular aspect of life.

unbox (v.): remove (something, especially a newly purchased product) from a box or other packaging.

vishing (v.): the fraudulent practice of making phone calls or leaving voice messages purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as bank details and credit-card numbers.

TIME language

Why We Shouldn’t Refer to ISIS as ‘Medieval’

Torturing a prisoner on the rack, Middle Ages.
Print Collector/Getty Images A 19th-century representation of a medieval torture device in use, from World of Wonders, published by Cassell and Co, (London, 1894).

'Medieval' is often treated as synonymous with lawlessness and brutality. Is that fair?

History Today logoThis post is in partnership with History Today. The article below was originally published at HistoryToday.com.

The word medieval is often treated as synonymous with filth, lawlessness and brutality. In particular the recent actions of ISIS and their treatment of prisoners have been called ‘medieval’ by journalists, commentators and bloggers alike. But why do we do this, and is it fair?

The use of medieval in this way has been widely discussed, and is not dissimilar to Orientalism. That is, the creating of an ‘other’ to contrast with one’s own identity (the modern versus the medieval, or ‘West’ versus ‘East’), and, through that contrast, to celebrate our perceived progress or difference in a way that is often also exoticising. As Clare Monagle and Louise D’Arcens have said, “When commentators and politicians describe Islamic State as ‘medieval’ they are placing the organization opportunely outside of modernity, in a sphere of irrationality.” It is an act of distancing, a separation of ‘us’ from ‘them,’ that removes them from our current definition of humanity and society, and exculpates us from any kind of association with their actions.

The ‘othering’ of a group or a period is by no means a modern phenomenon: barbarian, regardless of whether or not its origin is a joke at the expense of foreign-language speakers (bar-bar-bar), has been used derogatively in Sanskrit, Greek, Latin and English to distance a community from its neighbors and, to the Anglo-Saxons, wealh meant both a foreigner (now ‘Welsh’) and ‘slave.’ Conversely, as Roberta Frank has said:

Medieval men of letters, like their modern counterparts, could sometimes be over-eager to recover the colorful rites and leafy folk beliefs of their pagan ancestors.

This phenomenon is encapsulated in the mythical rite of blood-eagling, the ritualistic killing of an enemy by splitting their ribs and spreading them to look like eagles’ wings. The English kings Ælla and Edmund were said to have been victims, among others. The myth has been around since the 12th century when an antiquarian revival in north-western Europe popularized the legend of the vicious Vikings. It was at this point that the berserker myth also took hold. Despite appearing in multiple sources such as Saxo’s Gesta Danorum and sagas of Ragnar Loðbrok, blood-eagling is most probably a misreading of poetic metaphor. Despite a lack of evidence to support it, the myth has persisted from the 12th century until today, in large part because it so perfectly emblemizes our perception of that time as violent, lawless and needlessly brutal.

While blood-eagling may have been a myth, torture was certainly a fact of the medieval period although its legality and application varied widely across Europe. For example, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle describes Stephen’s rebelling barons in the 12th century torturing people for money, but English common law in the later medieval period made it illegal to mistreat a prisoner before they had been found guilty.

Until the 13th century, torture had been used by the state and the church in the pursuit of justice: ordeals by fire or by water under supervision of a priest were used to determine guilt. This extraction of proof by ordeal was then replaced by trial by jury. Under this system, torture was made illegal because it was rendered unnecessary. The death penalty could be applied without the need for the confessional evidence torture might provide.

While illegal in England, it was still used on the Continent as a means of extracting proof. At times it aimed to follow the Classical model in practicalities as well as ideology: Aristotle believed that confessions withdrawn by torture were unreliable – understandably – and so very often the goal was to stop the torture before confessions were made, or if that were not possible, to allow the victim to recover before re-confessing. Due to its illegality in England, Edward II was very resistant to papal orders for the investigation of the Knights Templar for heresy and ultimately they were tortured according to ‘ecclesiastical law’ rather than English law. Once found guilty, they were burned alive as heretics.

Fire was used in various forms, in burning feet, or in heating iron boots or devices such as bars to be held. Other medieval torture methods included stress positions – a method approved of in 2003 by Donald Rumsfeld – and flaying, which was most commonly associated with martyrs such as St Bartholomew (the patron saint of parchment-makers, bookbinders and other trades reliant on the removal of skin from flesh). Public exhibitions of torture and punishment being exacted were also common, but were not just gruesome displays intended to titillate and horrify: Sean McGlynn has suggested that they acted as ‘reassurance that justice was being served to protect society’.

Torture was certainly widespread across the medieval world. Its use was regulated by church and state law as a means of demonstrating guilt, of determining guilt and of exacting punishment, but its legality and application changed depending on any number of factors including country, date, church, state, ideology and political context. There was no one unified system of medieval torture: to some it was abhorrent; to some against the Church and to others it was a tool to be used by the Church. It had legal, ecclesiastical, moral and mercenary applications.

Neither was torture restricted to the medieval period. The Greeks and Romans used torture, and the early-modern period was rife with ordeals: the rack, witch-hunts, keelhauling. But it is the medieval period which is most associated with it because it fits with our image of that time as rough and lawless.

Despite the reality of medieval torture, comparisons with ISIS are not intended to be meaningfully equivalent. Instead, they are conjuring up the one-dimensional myth of medievalism: of berserkers, barbarians and blood-eagling, a myth which leaves us, civilized and modern, wholly absolved of any connection with those actions.

Kate Wiles is a contributing editor at History Today.

TIME language

In Soviet Russia, the Oscars Host You

Actors (L-R) Clark Gable Cary Grant Bob Hope and David
Leonard McCombe—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Bob Hope and David Niven laughing heartily together at one of Hope's recently-acquired Russian jokes during break from rehearsals for the 1958 Academy Awards

In 1958, Oscars host Bob Hope may have made comedy history

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

These days, an Oscars host is likely to wish only to avoid a complete disaster — but in 1958, veteran host Bob Hope may have introduced the world to a joke that, decades later, has become part of comedy’s common heritage.

Here’s how TIME described the ceremony in the Apr. 7 issue of that year:

As things got under way, Jimmy Stewart told the home audience that the uninterrupted program was “being brought to you in living black and white.” Bob Hope, back from his Russian junket, noted that there had been TV in all the rooms of his Moscow hotel—”only it watches you”—also called attention to the parades of expensive talent being given away free to television, proving that “the motion-picture industry isn’t frightened. It’s off its rocker.”

Comedy fans will likely recognize a very familiar construction in that first Hope joke. In Soviet Russia, the TV watches you!

These days, that construction is often known as the “Russian reversal.” Swap around the order in which things are usually done, add “in [Soviet] Russia” to the beginning, and that’s it. The joke has appeared on The Simpsons and Family Guy, and the Internet is flush with “t-shirt wears you” gear.

Most sources — from the spot-on Language Log blog at UPenn to the equally trustworthy (when it comes to viral jokes) Know Your Meme — trace the joke’s popularity to Yakov Smirnoff, a Russian-born comedian who came to the U.S. in the 1970s. And it’s not hard to see why he would get the credit:

Dig a little deeper, and some sources note that a similar joke (substituting “the Old Country” for “Russia”) appeared on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, which started airing in 1968 — which is, of course, a full decade after Bob Hope used the joke at the 1958 Oscars.

There’s some evidence that Hope’s joke was new at that time: LIFE magazine had a photographer on scene during rehearsals for the telecast, and — though the magazine ended up printing something different — the caption with one of the photos (seen here) indicates that Hope and friends were laughing at one of his “recently acquired Russian jokes.”

But, while Bob Hope may have introduced a national television audience to the Russian reversal, the real moral of the story is not that he was first — just that it’s hard to say who came up with something so common. After all, buried in the meme’s page on TVTropes.org there’s an example from a play written a full two decades earlier, before Bob Hope hosted the Oscars, before the Oscars were on TV, before the Cold War even started. In 1938’s Cole Porter musical Leave It to Me!, a man tries to tip a messenger. “No tipping,” he’s told. “In Soviet Russia, messenger tips you.”

Read the full write-up of the 1958 ceremony, here in the TIME Vault: The Oscars

TIME language

The Secret of Abraham Lincoln’s Success as a Writer?

Abraham Lincoln And Family
Kean Collection / Getty Images Engraved portrait of President Abraham Lincoln and his son Thomas, as Lincoln reads from a large book, circa 1850.

He had a reputation as a country bumpkin, but he knew his grammar inside out

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Abraham Lincoln’s formal education was remarkably sparse for a man who later became president. By his own estimate, his schooldays amounted to less than a year altogether, and these were passed in poorly equipped frontier classrooms. He wrote dismissively in his autobiography of the “schools, so called,” where the teachers were barely qualified, and anyone in the neighborhood rumored to know Latin “was looked upon as a wizard.” Yet Lincoln is remembered today as one of our most eloquent presidents. His best-known speeches are still familiar and cherished.

Lincoln developed his linguistic skills partly by following a once-common early American tradition—self-betterment through grammar study. Grammar books were the self-help manuals of the early republic. Cheaper and more available than other books, they were frequently the only classroom texts in small rural schoolhouses. They were also the only secular books in many homes. For people too poor or too isolated to attend school, mastering a grammar primer was the first step toward economic and social success. Grammar study was thought to sharpen the mind and prepare people for further education, as well as leading to a better command of elegant speech.

As with thousands of other nineteenth-century Americans, the young Abe’s self-education and rise out of poverty started with basic textbooks. These included English schoolmaster Thomas Dilworth’s New Guide to the English Tongue and fellow countryman Noah Webster’s Grammatical Institute. Like most other popular grammar books, these titles were first published in the eighteenth century and had gone through numerous editions by Lincoln’s day. Dilworth was available in nearly all classrooms, even in remote places like rural Indiana, and secondhand copies of both books were fairly easy to find. Lincoln would have learned parts of speech and basic sentence structure from these books.

The adolescent Lincoln also studied elocution books, including one owned by his stepmother—William Scott’s Lessons in Elocution. This volume would have introduced Lincoln to the standardizing rules that all eighteenth-century grammar books emphasized. Among the “common errors” that Scott discusses are ending a sentence with a preposition (Who did you give it to?), following a preposition with a subject pronoun (between you and I), and following the verb to be with an object pronoun (It was him.) Scott also offers a section on literary devices like antithesis.

When Lincoln began contemplating the possibility of a law degree, he took up grammar study at a higher level, making an effort to seek out the most respected authors. Learning that a local farmer owned a copy of schoolteacher Samuel Kirkham’s popular English Grammar in Familiar Lectures, he walked several miles to borrow it. From another friend he borrowed a copy of the best-selling grammar book of the time, English Grammar, Adapted to the Different Classes of Learners by American expatriate Lindley Murray.

Typically for that time, Lincoln mastered the books by memorizing them. He would have started at the beginning, with definitions—“A noun is the name of any person, place, or thing.” Then he would have progressed to more complex rules—“The verb to be, through all its variations, has the same case after it as that which next precedes it.” He would have learned such niceties as the various ways to use shall—including for determination and insistence—and the proper usage of the subjunctive mood. Murray’s book also provided more sophisticated compositional advice in the form of style rules. Here Lincoln would have read, for instance, about the value of a “plain, native” style over highly ornamented prose.

Lincoln’s enemies frequently portrayed him as an illiterate country bumpkin. When the Republican Party announced his nomination for the presidency, the New York Herald sneered, “They pass over Seward, Chase, and Banks, who are statesmen and able men, and they take up a fourth-rate lecturer who cannot speak good grammar.” The Albany Atlas and Argus complained,“He … is not known, except as a slang-whanging stump speaker.”

The critics’ attacks weren’t really about Lincoln’s speaking style. In the nineteenth century, “bad grammar” was a code that suggested a whole range of other deficits. Saying that Lincoln couldn’t use language correctly implied that he was of humble origins and therefore unworthy of the highest office in the land. Newspaper readers of the time would have gotten the message.

Contrary to what his enemies claimed, Lincoln’s speeches were carefully constructed. They show that he thoroughly grasped the grammar rules found in the books he had studied. For example, his Cooper Union speech of February 27, 1860 features the use of nominative case after the verb to be (“It was not we, but you, who discarded the old policy of the fathers”). Lincoln also used the present subjunctive unless you be rather than unless you are (“Your purpose, then, plainly stated, is that you will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe … the Constitution as you please”), and correctly placed prepositions before their objects (“I give [the Democrats] … all other living men … among whom to search”).

The Gettysburg address, delivered on November 19, 1863, includes the specialized use of shall with third person to promise or express determination (“Government of the people, for the people, by the people shall not perish from the earth”). The emphatic use of shall had been on the wane since the late eighteenth century. By the 1860s it would have been uncommon outside of grammar books, yet Lincoln obviously understood how to use it effectively.

None of the formal grammar rules that Lincoln applied in his speeches could have been acquired naturally from the people around him while he was growing up. He learned them by studying grammar. Grammar books promised to set users like our sixteenth president on the path to scholarly and social achievement. In this case at least, that promise was fulfilled.

Rosemarie Ostler is a linguist and former librarian, Her books about slang and word origins explore the colorful turns of phrase in America’s past lexicon. Her articles have appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Whole Earth, Christian Science Monitor, Verbatim, Writer’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.com among others. Her latest book is “Founding Grammars: How Early America’s War Over Words Shaped Today’s Language” (May 2015)

TIME language

The 5 Woofiest Descriptions of Westminster Dog Show Competitors

Three English Bulldogs
Underwood Archives / Getty Images Three English bulldogs at the 61st annual show of the Westminster Kennel Club at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1937

From nearly a century of TIME's coverage of the venerable dog show

This year’s Westminster Dog Show, which takes place on Feb. 16 and 17, will be the 139th such show in the Kennel Club’s history, making it one of the oldest competitions in the United States. (The Kentucky Derby is older.) And, though recent media coverage of Westminster has tended to focus more on numbers and trends — the way a Westminster winner can set off a puppy-buying spree within a breed, for example — it used to be that the annual event was an occasion for a writer to show off a way with woofs.

Here are five of the most drooling drops of wordcraft about Westminster competitors from the history of TIME magazine:

A 1926 description of Signal Circuit, a wire-haired fox terrier: “His long squared muzzle and flat ears, splashed with tan, his tapering middle-piece, his front legs straight as the legs of a stool, his back-legs taut as triggers, showed him at once to be a prince. When the judges bent above him, probing with wise fingers the fabric on his bones, he stood very still; his garnet eyes were palled with a smoky sorrow.”

A 1928 description of Bogota Firebug, a pomeranian: “Like a mosquito who has been crawling in the fluffy dust under a boarding house bed, he stood, looking up at the crowd with startled, pert malignance.”

A 1937 description of Flornell Spicypiece of Halleston, a wire-haired terrier: “[She] twinkled around the ring, dark eyes snapping, white coat curried and brushed to a glistening alabaster…”

A 1953 description of Rancho Dobe’s Storm, a Doberman pinscher: “Storm was matched against a Skye terrier which looked like a dust mop, a prissy poodle, a sad-eyed bloodhound, a self-conscious Irish setter and a pudgy pug. It was hardly a contest. Storm, sleek and cocky, paraded around with the aplomb of a high-fashion model.”

A 1957 description of Shirkhan of Grandeur, an Afghan hound: “…the long-haired, silver-blue Afghan stayed cool and aloof, a champion without pause.”

Whichever dog takes home the blue ribbon this year, he or she will surely be a prose-worthy pooch.

TIME weather

Here’s a Closer Look at the ‘Snowmenclature’ People Are Using

Literal is so hot right now

Every great blizzard that hits the U.S. sends people running to the grocery store to stockpile canned goods and, in recent years, to their keyboards for rampant hashtagging. As snow hit the Northeast on Monday and Tuesday, social media was rife with references to the #snowicane, the #snowjam and the #snownado.

TIME partnered with Hashtracking to find out which trending hashtags were getting the most traction on Twitter, as New York residents geared up for chaos that never really hit and New Englanders battened down the hatches. The results are in: The top hashtag for tweeting about the storm is the quite literal #blizzardof2015. (You can get a closer look at the chart here.)

Chart complied by Hashtracking

But, as with many competitions, the winners aren’t as interesting as the losers. Juno, the green line above in a solid third place, is the name for the storm chosen by the Weather Channel. That cable network decided two years ago that it would start giving names to winter storms like the government does for hurricanes, a move many saw as a branding “ploy”.

The government hasn’t endorsed the Weather Channel’s names and doesn’t name winter storms itself because snowstorms are more frequent and more ambiguous than events like hurricanes. The network has said its aim is to make people more aware of such events, but it appears that people prefer to orient themselves with the more straightforward #blizzardof2015 than the more arbitrary #Juno.

That unpoetic hashtag has also trumped the long-dominant blizzard-time puns #snowmageddon and #snowpocalypse. This blizzard may mark the first time some people are hearing this duo of “portmansnows”—as Stanford University linguist Arnold Zwicky dubbed them—but they have been around for at least a decade. And they may finally have reached a point of exposure where they’re on the way out.

Ben Zimmer, executive editor at Vocabulary.com, found evidence of bloggers using this “snowmenclature” when storms hit the U.S. in 2005. But, he says, they didn’t really blow up until Twitter had taken hold in 2010. Even President Barack Obama was on board that year. “Hashtags lend themselves to this play with blended words,” Zimmer says. “And a successful blend, one people recognize and understand, is one where the parts are obvious at first glance, like snowmageddon.”

MORE: Why Blizzards Turn Us Into Irrational Hoarders at the Grocery Store

Clearly snowmageddon is a blend of the white precipitation commonly known as snow and Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil that leaves the earth in ashes—just as snowpocalypse is a blend of snow and apocalypse, a last catastrophe that marks the end of the world.

But what really makes these words irresistible (at least for a while) is the nature of the events that inspired them. As Zimmer says, “It makes you feel like you’re in a disaster movie.” And what’s the best part of a huge snowstorm or a zombie takeover that leaves 10 newly acquainted survivors huddled in a farmhouse? The same thing. There’s a suspension of the rules. You’re expected to figure things out for yourself and you get to do things you wouldn’t on any regular day. Walking right down the middle of what is usually a busy street is a thrilling little treat, whether everybody’s dead or everybody’s cars are stuck in their driveways.

Just like those survivors in the farmhouse, there is also a sudden solidarity among everyone who is having their normal lives upended. “There’s something kind of exciting and it kind of draws everybody together,” says Tom Skilling, top weather broadcaster for WGN in Chicago. “‘We’re about to go through this as a group and if we all deal with this together, we’ll get through this.’ Major weather events affect everybody, all ages, all demographic groups. And if it doesn’t happen too often, there’s a drawing together that goes on.”

That said, Skilling is not a big fan of these “gimmicky” words. He’s more of a #blizzardof2015 kind of guy. The fact that they’re so hyperbolic—clearly no one is taking a snowstorm as seriously as an apocalypse—makes them playful. And the fact that they’re playful might lead to people not taking dangerous weather events as seriously as they should, he says. “You’re dealing with an event in nature that really does have great consequence,” he says. “Sometimes we’re better off just dealing with facts.” (Then Skilling apologizes for being a killjoy.)

Here is a short selection of puns and plays on words the people are using to get themselves through this cold, dark time.

#snowku (for haikus about the storm)

(Feel free to tweet the author with other puns to add.)

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 26

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. We spent more than $170 billion on the wars they fought for us. Can we spend $5 billion to give veterans a guaranteed income?

By Gar Alperovitz in Al Jazeera America

2. A ‘teaching hospital’ model could work for journalism education by making students work collectively to produce professional results.

By Adam Ragusea at Neiman Lab

3. Humans are born with an intimate understanding of pitch, rhythm, and tone. We’re all musical geniuses.

By Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis in Aeon

4. WarkaWater Towers — which produce up to 25 gallons of water out of fog and dew every day — could change lives in drought-stricken countries.

By Liz Stinson in Wired

5. Private sector investment savvy and funds can help us tackle poverty’s toughest challenges. It’s time for impact investing.

By Anne Mosle in The Hill

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

7 State of the Union Quotes That Sound Like Lines From Spider-Man

Even before Spider-Man existed!

With great power comes great responsibility. The oft-quoted Spider-Man line dates back, in one form or another, to Spidey’s earliest days, in the 1960s — but for at least a century before that, U.S. Presidents have been saying pretty much the same thing.

The constitution requires the President to talk to Congress about the state of the union — though the fact that he does so annually and with an in-person speech is more a matter of tradition — so the record of such addresses dates all the way back to 1790. Unsurprisingly, the themes evolve: early messages tended to focus on whether the U.S. stood a chance of continuing to exist; those in the middle years, which were not delivered as speeches, read more like interoffice memos; more recent ones, especially since they began to be broadcast to citizens, are full of feel-good inspiration.

But one theme has been constant: with great power comes, well, you know…

Abraham Lincoln in 1862: “We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom to the free–honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save or meanly lose the last best hope of earth.”

William McKinley in 1899: “Presented to this Congress are great opportunities. With them come great responsibilities. The power confided to us increases the weight of our obligations to the people, and we must be profoundly sensible of them as we contemplate the new and grave problems which confront us. Aiming only at the public good, we cannot err.”

Theodore Roosevelt in 1902: “As a people we have played a large part in the world, and we are bent upon making our future even larger than the past. In particular, the events of the last four years have definitely decided that, for woe or for weal, our place must be great among the nations. We may either fall greatly or succeed greatly; but we can not avoid the endeavor from which either great failure or great success must come. Even if we would, we can not play a small part. If we should try, all that would follow would be that we should play a large part ignobly and shamefully.”

Calvin Coolidge in 1923: “The time has come for a more practical use of moral power, and more reliance upon the principle that right makes its own might. Our authority among the nations must be represented by justice and mercy. It is necessary not only to have faith, but to make sacrifices for our faith. The spiritual forces of the world make all its final determinations. It is with these voices that America should speak. Whenever they declare a righteous purpose there need be no doubt that they will be heard. America has taken her place in the world as a Republic–free, independent, powerful. The best service that can be rendered to humanity is the assurance that this place will be maintained.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945: We cannot deny that power is a factor in world politics any more than we can deny its existence as a factor in national politics. But in a democratic world, as in a democratic Nation, power must be linked with responsibility, and obliged to defend and justify itself within the framework of the general good.” (FDR would have loved Spider-Man, if it’s any indication that his 1938 address also said that “in every case power and responsibility must go hand in hand.”)

John F. Kennedy in 1963: “In short, both at home and abroad, there may now be a temptation to relax. For the road has been long, the burden heavy, and the pace consistently urgent. But we cannot be satisfied to rest here. This is the side of the hill, not the top. The mere absence of war is not peace. The mere absence of recession is not growth. We have made a beginning–but we have only begun.”

George H.W. Bush in 1992: “Much good can come from the prudent use of power. And much good can come of this: A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one sole and preeminent power, the United States of America. And they regard this with no dread. For the world trusts us with power, and the world is right. They trust us to be fair and restrained. They trust us to be on the side of decency. They trust us to do what’s right.”

As for whether 2015 will add another quote to this list, we’ll find out on Tuesday, when President Obama delivers the State of the Union.


#blacklivesmatter Is the American Dialect Society’s 2014 Word of the Year

Black Lives Matter Protest Disrupts Holiday Shoppers At Mall Of America
Adam Bettcher—Getty Images Thousands of protesters from the group "Black Lives Matter" disrupt holiday shoppers on Dec. 20, 2014 at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.

By an overwhelming majority

The members of the American Dialect Society invented the word of the year. These academics and linguists have been choosing one since 1990, which means Jan. 9 marked their 25th exercise of this ritual. While outfits like Oxford may get more attention for their annual picks these days (though they’ve been selecting since just 2004), the stalwarts of the Society like to claim that they were the first to choose a “WOTY” and they’re still the last, because they wait until the year is actually over to make their decision.

Among 2014 selections, this last pick proved to be the most creative, and the most intentional. After Oxford chose vape, Dictionary.com chose exposure and Merriam-Webster selected culture, 196 of those gathered at the Society’s annual meeting in Portland, Ore., raised their hands for #blacklivesmatter. The next most popular nominee got 11 votes.

Choosing a hashtag as a “word” of the year is sure to drive some traditional types to snap their bifocals in half. Some still furrow their brows at the mere idea of selecting a phrase as a “word” of the year (“because technically a phrase is not a word,” etc.). Linguistically, that makes the Society’s pick the edgiest of the bunch.

“By traditional standards, a hashtag that combines three words would not be considered a word,” Ben Zimmer, the chair of the New Words Committee who presided over the meeting, told TIME. “But clearly the membership feels that it’s a time to recognize that hashtags are an innovative linguistic form that deserve our attention.”

Yet that’s not what drove the voters. The room where the vote was held was standing room only, with graduate students piled 10 rows deep at the back. People sat on air-conditioning vents and on the floor. And for each round of voting, anyone present was invited to say a brief piece in support or against a nominee.

Indiana State University’s Leslie Barratt was the one who nominated #blacklivesmatter. “It’s one of the most important issues in our country this year, and every year,” she said.

Another speaker said that this was the one time of year when the average media consumer might pay any attention to what a room full of phoneme-loving linguists cared about. She, too, backed the hashtag for its sentiment, saying, “Here’s our moment to say what we want to say to the world outside of this meeting.”

Though she didn’t make the official nomination, Sonja Lanehart, a linguistics professor at the University of Texas—San Antonio, was really behind the charge. She has been coming to the Society’s meetings since she was an undergraduate.

“It was mostly old white men. I was an anomaly,” says Lanehart, who is black. “To go from being an anomaly to saying this is important and we need to vote for it, and people stood up and did it …” She trailed off. People congratulated her (“You represent”) and thanked her (“I wish I had said something”) as they walked out of the room.

“It’s important to realize that black lives do matter,” Lanehart told TIME. “We’ve been here. We’re going to still be here. You can’t just treat us like we don’t matter.”

The vote for the Word of the Year fell at the end of the meeting, after less prestigious categories such as “Most Useful” and “Least Likely to Succeed.” No other nominee for any category had the kind of support that #blacklivesmatter did.

In fact, a highlight of the meeting was a rumble between the under-30 and over-3o crowds over whether budtender or basic was “Most Likely to Succeed.” Both had been re-nominated after losing in other categories. (For reasons unexplained, the older crowd was very pro-budtender.) But their raucous split—which involved chants of “BAS-IC! BAS-IC!”— paved the way for an insurgent third part to win the category: salty, meaning “exceptionally bitter, angry or upset.”

For every vote, there were arguments about the nominees. Were they really new in 2014? (Eligible words are required to be “new-ish” or have taken on new meaning that year, like occupy did in 2011.) Were they clever or ridiculous? Was the hashtag #notallmen really a rally cry to eradicate tall men, as one very tall man suggested?

Perhaps the second-most-agreed-upon sentiment was that the word platisher is terrible. One of the moderators cheekily, silently typed messages on a screen at the front of the room as the nominees were discussed. “UGLIEST WORD OF 2014,” he wrote by platisher, a blend of publisher and platform. “PEOPLE VOMITED. THE STREETS WERE SLICK.”

After the final vote, the claps were loud. Here are the nominees and winners from all of the categories.


budtender: a person who specializes in serving marijuana to consumers, especially in legal dispensaries
Ebola: deadly virus that, in 2014, had a huge outbreak in West Africa that killed thousands
**even: v. to deal with or reconcile difficult situations or emotions (from “I can’t even”)
robocar: a self-driving car
unbothered: not annoyed or distracted


**columbusing: cultural appropriation, especially the act of a white person claiming to discover things already known to minority cultures
manspreading: of a man, to sit with one’s legs wide on public transit in a way that blocks other seats
misogynoir: misogyny directed toward black women
narcissistick (or narcisstick): pejorative term for a selfie stick


**baeless: without a romantic partner
basic: plain, socially awkward, unattractive, uninteresting, ignorant, pathetic, uncool, etc.
lumbersexual: fashionably rugged man who adopts the stereotypical dress and facial hair of a lumberjack
narcissistick (or narcisstick): pejorative term for a selfie stick


God view: display mode used by ride-sharing service Uber providing employees with real-time information on all users
**second-amendment: v. to kill (someone) with a gun, used ironically by gun control supporters
sugar-dating: pay-to-play relationship between an older, wealthier person (sugar daddy/ momma) and a younger partner (sugar baby)


bye, Felicia: a dismissive farewell to someone deemed unimportant
conscious uncoupling: a divorce or romantic separation by polite mutual agreement
**EIT: abbreviation for the already euphemistic “enhanced interrogation technique”
thirsty: so hungry for a romantic partner as to appear desperate


basic: plain, socially awkward, unattractive, uninteresting, ignorant, pathetic, uncool, etc.
budtender: a person who specializes in serving marijuana to consumers, especially in legal dispensaries
casual: a new or inexperienced person, especially a gamer (also in filthy casual)
plastiglomerate: type of stone made of melted plastic, beach sediment, and organic debris
**salty: exceptionally bitter, angry, or upset
selfie stick: a pole to which a smartphone is attached to take selfies from a distance


normcore: “anti-fashion” trend of adopting an intentionally ordinary, inexpensive personal style from cheap off-the-shelf brands
pairage: term proposed by Utah legislator Kraig Powell to refer to same-sex marriages
**platisher: online media publisher that also serves as a platform for creating content

MOST NOTABLE HASHTAG (new category this year)

**#blacklivesmatter: protest over blacks killed at the hands of police (esp. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in Staten Island)
#icantbreathe: final words of Eric Garner, turned into rallying cry against police violence
#notallmen: response by men to discussions of sexual abuse, sexism, or misogyny that they see as portraying all men as perpetrators (countered by #yesallwomen, used by women sharing stories of bias, harrassment, or abuse)
#whyistayed: explanation by women about staying in abusive domestic relationships


bae: a romantic partner
**#blacklivesmatter: protest over blacks killed at the hands of police (esp. Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in Staten Island)
columbusing: cultural appropriation, especially the act of a white person claiming to discover things already known to minority cultures
even: v. to deal with or reconcile difficult situations or emotions (from “I can’t even”)
manspreading: of a man, to sit with one’s legs wide on public transit in a way that blocks other seats

TIME language

‘Ferguson’ Is 2014’s Name of the Year

Snow covers a yard sign placed outside a home near the police station on Nov. 16, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Snow covers a yard sign placed outside a home near the police station on Nov. 16, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.

Beating out Uber, Malala and a princess from Frozen

In the basement of a Portland hotel Friday, a room full of members of the American Name Society gathered for their big annual event: voting on the name of the year for 2014. They nominated and spoke for and against the names of people, places and things that mattered last year before a decisive vote. By a 15-vote margin over the other finalists, “Ferguson” became their name of the year.

Ferguson, of course, is the name the St. Louis suburb where a police officer shot and killed teenager Michael Brown last year, setting off weeks of racially charged unrest around the country. Others also spoke up in favor of the eventual winner. “We can use our voice for social good and also for a movement that has some political weight to it,” said one member.

Iman Laversuch Nick, the incoming president of the society, gave a short speech in support of Ferguson right before the vote. “It’s the amount of power that it evokes,” she said. “It’s a name like Columbine. This name will always have that meaning. … Ferguson is going to take that kind of place historically where we will immediately have those associations, and I think it’s incredible that a name can do that.”

The town beat out Uber (the car service), Malala (the Nobel Peace Prize winner) and Elsa (the Disney princess of Frozen fame) in the final round of voting. Each of the four were winners in their own respective categories: place names, trade names, personal names and fictional names. About 30 people cast their votes by a raise of hands.

The American Name Society is the oldest and largest society dedicated to the investigation of names and how they develop. Laversuch Nick, a New Yorker who teaches at the University of Cologne, is passionate about how much power names have and how much they say about the people who use them. “It starts with the fact that everything that’s significant to us gets a name,” she says.

She reels off examples. The identity crises people have in naming their first-born child; the arguments people have over who can call themselves a Native-American or whether black is preferable to African-American; why some products have names that resonate with consumers and inspire copycatting across industries (See: the iPod); the life-and-death power of names written on Schindler’s List; genocidal killers in Africa targeting victims with certain tribal names; the act of taking away a prisoner’s name and giving him a number; a woman’s decision about whether to keep or drop her last name when she marries; the fact that tampons are euphemized on aisle guides as “feminine hygiene” products; the unclear reason that it’s hard to imagine a lumbersexual named Herbert.

Because of her first name, one used among Muslim people, Laversuch Nick has had to deal with being constantly flagged going through customs post-9/11. “People aren’t aware how much these names mean to them,” she says. Though among the people gathered for the vote, Ferguson was an obvious exception.

“I don’t think anyone in here had heard it before,” said another member right before votes were cast. “It’s this innocuous place that suddenly is a major city in the world’s perspective. I don’t think anybody will ever forget about Ferguson.”

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