Saturday, January 10, 2009

Word of the Year - Bailout - Alas, Not New

The Word of the Year 2008 is bailout, according to the American Dialect Society, which balloted yesterday in San Francisco. The word is understood by the Society to mean “rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry.”

This word-of-the-year is only 19 years old, or the Society would have run into it before, in the late 1970s when "bailout" was used in connection with the proposed first rescue of the Chrysler Corporation.

It's easy for me to remember because the unflappable lady who handled this for Senator William Proxmire's Banking Committee was Elinor Bachrach. Since she also handled New York City's rescue and a couple of other institutions in trouble, she was then known as Billion-Dollar Bailout Bachrach – and there may have been another adjectival prefix before the word Bailout, like Boondoggle or Basket-Case.

So if the American Dialect Society had been a little older, the word bailout might be taken and the winner could have been one of the other words, like:
- Most creative: recombobulation area, at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Airport where passengers who “have just passed through security screening can get their clothes and belongings back in order."
- Most unnecessary: moofing, i.e., “mobile out of office,” working with laptop and cell phone.
- Most outrageous: terrorist fist jab, a knuckle-to-knuckle fist bump, or “dap,” traditionally performed between two black people as a sign of friendship, celebration or agreement and described as “the terrorist fist jab” by newscaster E. D. Hill, formerly of Fox News.
- Most likely to succeed: shovel-ready, an infrastructure projects that can be started quickly when funds become available.

Other nominees that caught my eye:
lipstick on a pig: An adornment of something that can't be made pretty.
game-changer: In business and politics, something that alters the nature of a marketplace, relationship, or campaign. From sports. "something that changes a match or contest."
Palinesque: Pertaining to persons who have extended themselves beyond their expertise, thereby bringing ridicule upon a serious matter.
long photo: A video of 90 seconds or less. Used by the photo-sharing web site Flickr.
First Dude: The husband of a governor or president.
bromance: A very close relationship between two heterosexual men.