Well, the votes are in and whomever decides these things has spoken (unlike the Minnesota senatorial race. I say we just let the governor of Illinois decide) we now know what the words of the year are in many languages. Not surprisingly, they were all basically about one of two things: sex and money — except when they were about meat.
- Austria: Lebensmensch — “most important person in your life.” The word took on a sexual connotation when Stefan Petzner used it after the death of Joerg Haider– leader of that nation’s far right — and acknowledged the two were one of those couples that could only be married in Massachusetts or Connecticut. By vote.
- Holland: Swaffelen (won 57% of vote at a dictionary publisher web site). “to swing one’s penis, making it bump against something, in order to stimulate either oneself or someone else.” Runners-up: “wiiën” (playing on a Wii game console) and “bankendomino” (banks falling over like dominoes).
- Japan: “change” was voted Japan’s character of the year — an homage to Mr. Obama. It was followed by “gold,” suggesting the Beijing Olympics, and “fall” to reflect the global market plunge. Personally I think comic-book loving Prime Minister Taro Aso was the Japanese character of the year.
- Germany: Two (one for the east and one for the west?), Finanzkrise (“financial crisis”); and — for those under 30 — “Gammelfleischparty” or “spoiled meat party” – an unflattering term for a gathering of people over 30.” Gammelfleisch was in the news frequently during the year when it was discovered that meat packers had been regularly supplying some kebab restaurants with past-due products. “Bildschirmbraeune” or “screen tan” — referring to the complexion of someone who spends too much time at a computer — came second, while “unterhopft,” meaning “underhopped,” or in need of a beer, took third. In the words for (not about) people over 30: Rettungsschirm (“emergency parachute”) came in 2nd. (Chosen by judges.)
- Taiwan: Among 61,600 people who took part in a telephone poll, nearly 8,000 voted for the Chinese character “luan” (chaos), followed by “pian” (lie) and “tsang” (miserable), said the United Daily News, a co-organiser of the survey. However, the Daily Telegraph (UK) got pranked when it reported the same Chaos.
- UK about the USA: Hypermiling — “the attempt to maximize gas mileage by making fuel-conserving adjustments to one’s car and one’s driving techniques.” Chosen by the publishers of the New Oxford American Dictionary (which shows that they should stick to picking words for their own country.) Also on the list: CarrotMob, “a flash-mob type of gathering, in which people are invited via the Net to all support and reward a local small ethical business by patronizing it at the same time” and; Topless meeting, “in which the participants are barred from using their laptops, BlackBerries, cellphones, etc.”
- US: Bailout was named word of the year because it “received the highest intensity of lookups over the shortest period of time” at Merriam-Webster OnLine. Runners up: “maverick” and “socialism.”
- William Safire: Frugalista — “a person who lives a frugal lifestyle but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying secondhand, growing own produce, etc.”