8 Words of the Year from Other Countries

As we recently reported, the American Dialect Society picked hashtag as the word of the year for 2012. The dictionary folks at Merriam-Webster chose capitalism and socialism, based on the number of lookups those words got during the year. The team at Oxford American Dictionaries chose GIF. As the nominees for these contests are chosen and debated, from Thanksgiving through the first week of January, word lovers are treated to (or subjected to, depending on what kind of word lover you are) a whirlwind of media discussion of words and how we’ve used them during the year.

But we are not the only ones with this fetish for word of the year pronouncements. Here are some of the word of the year choices from other countries.

1. Rettungsroutine, Germany
This word means “rescue routine” or “bailout” and was prominent this year in discussions of the European economic crisis. It was chosen by the Association for the German Language, beating out words like Bildungsabwendungsprämie (“education avoidance subsidy,” a term used by opponents of the creation of a child care allowance for parents keeping their kids out of state-run day care) and Fluch-Hafen (“cursed-port,” a play on Flughafen, or “airport,” referring to the drawn out and increasingly costly construction of a new airport in Berlin).

2. Project X-feest, Netherlands
The word of the year in the Netherlands is announced by dictionary publisher Van Dale. “Project X-party” is a spontaneous party that grows out of control due to people spreading the word on social media. It’s named for the American film Project X, about such a party, but entered the Dutch vocabulary in a big way after a Facebook invitation to a girl’s 16th birthday party escalated into a riot in the small town of Haren in the Netherlands.

3. Frietchinees, Belgium
Van Dale also announces a Flemish word of the year for Belgium. Frietchinees or “Chinese fryer,” refers to the phenomenon of Asian people running Belgian fry shops.

4. Entroikado, Portugal
In a vote run by the Portuguese publisher Porto Editora, entroikado, or “en-troika-ed,” won for word of the year. It means “to be forced to live under the conditions imposed by the troika.” The troika in this case is made up of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Central Bank.

5. Watture, France
Watture was selected the winner at the XYZ Festival of New Words in Le Havre. It’s a clever blend of “watt,” as in “wattage,” and voiture (car). It means “electric car.”

6. Mèng 梦, China
The Education Ministry in China runs a poll to select the Chinese character of the year, and the winner this year was the character meaning “dream.” There was some disagreement over how the choice should be interpreted, with the government playing up its reflection of the wonderful dreams fulfilled by China this year (“The dream for an aircraft carrier, the dream for a Nobel Prize…”) and various citizens responding that it was a particularly ironic choice for times in which corruption has made it so difficult for ordinary people to attain their dreams. In a separate, online poll, voters chose bào 曝 (exposure) as the character of the year, in reference to the exposure of official corruption.

7. kin金, Japan
After a public vote, the Japan Kanji Proficiency Society announces the kanji (character) of the year every December 12, otherwise known as Kanji Day. This year the character meaning “gold” was selected. The character appears in the written form for “milestone” and it represents some of the events of the year, including the Olympic gold medals won by Japan, a Nobel Prize in medicine for Shinya Yamanaka, the completion of Tokyo Skytree (the tallest structure in Japan and tallest tower in the world), and a solar eclipse.

8. Ogooglebar, Swedish
Instead of picking one word of the year, the Swedes, in their egalitarian way, make a list of all the new words of the year. The Swedish Language Council announced their annual list of words that “show that language is a result of an ongoing democratic process in which we all participate.” This year there were 40 words on the list. Some of them were straight English borrowings, such as “brony,” some were references to local scandals like Tintingate, and some were pure Swedish, like henifiera (henify), referring to the practice of replacing the gendered “he” and “she” pronouns in Swedish (han and hon) with the neutral hen. Since mental_floss protocol demands a heading for this list item, however, I chose the delightful, bouncy ogooglebar. It means “ungoogleable.”

January 9, 2013 - 8:41am
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