Good question — and one we rarely hear nowadays. According to wordorigins.org, the title question “was popular back in the 40s and 50s but, like so many other things, it was obliterated by the 60s.” I bring this up now because, as it happens, the annual conference (Jan 7-10) of the American Dialect Society is shutting down (and up) today, and is announcing the 2015 Word of the Year. Here are the winners for the past decade:
2005 – truthiness 2010 – app
2006 – plutoed 2011 – occupy
2007 – subprime 2012 – hashtag
2008 – bailout 2013 – because
2009 – tweet 2014 – #blacklivesmatter
Speaking of American Dialect (or any other English language dialect) reminds me of what eminent Professor Henry Higgins had to say about it:
Looking over those past Word of the Year winners, the one that, for me, caused pause was 2006’s “plutoed” — until I remembered that Pluto was down-graded by astronomers from a planet to a dwarf planet, or plutoid. Prediction: the 2016 Word of the Year winner will be “trumpoed,” in the expectation that planet Trump will be found to be little more than a gaseous bag of hot air, or trumpoid.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. My nomination for 2015 Word of the Year is “affluenza,” the social disease (diagnosed as such by eminent shrinkologist, Dr. Don Frankel) which results from being spoiled by affluent parents who raise their kids in a values-vacuum….as in the case of the 16-year old who killed four people while DUI and was put on probation instead of being spanked….and then left the country with the help of his momma. I know — it’s not funny. It’s serious business….as if humor has no business being serious, even if it makes one think.
If you (or some other brilliant person) were to ask me, I think I’d propose a sub-category for Humorous Word of the Year (not that some previous Word of the Year winners lacked humor, like 2005’s truthiness). Surely, my fellow nasal gazers, you don’t doubt that such words as booger would have been worthy contenders in the past….not to mention weenie, kumquat and odiferous.
Speaking of reeking of serious humor, I nominate the class noun “etymology” for the proverbial last word :