Sublime Subprime?

January 11, 2008 ( - In its 18th annual words of the year vote, the American Dialect Society voted "subprime" as the word of the year.

Subprime, of course, is an adjective used to describe a risky or less than ideal loan, mortgage, or investment – and was also winner of a brand-new 2007 category for real estate words. However, winning the most creative word was Googlegänger – which is a person with your name who shows up when you google yourself.

Last year the American Dialect Society voted “plutoed” as the word of the year, in a run-off against climate canary. “To Pluto” is to demote or devalue someone or something, as happened to the former planet Pluto when the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union decided Pluto no longer met its definition of a planet.

Word of the Year is interpreted in its broader sense as “vocabulary item”-not just words but phrases. The words or phrases do not have to be brand-new, but they have to be newly prominent or notable in the past year, in the manner of Time magazine’s Person of the Year.


Other finalists in the word of the year were:

  • green ” – designates environmental concern, as in greenwashing.
  • Facebook ” – as in the social networking site
  • Googlegänger ” – a person with your name who shows up when you google yourself
  • surge ” – surely we know what this refers to
  • Waterboarding ” – ditto
  • wide stance ” (as in, “to have a”) – to be hypocritical or to express two conflicting points of view. This is a reference to the incident involving Senator Larry Craig, who was arrested in a public restroom for an alleged “signal” to a man in the next stall. Craig said it was a misunderstanding and that he just had a “wide stance” when using the toilet.

While other winners (besides “subprime”) in the real estate category were:

  • exploding ARM ” – an Adjustable Rate Mortgage whose rates soon rise beyond a borrower’s ability to pay.
  • liar’s loan/liar loan ” – money borrowed from a financial institution under false pretenses
  • NINJA – which stands for “No Income, No Job or Assets”, referring to a poorly documented loan made to a high-risk borrower.
  • scratch and dent loan ” – a loan or mortgage that has become a risky debt investment, especially one secured with minimal documentation or made by a borrower who has missed payments.

Among the "most useful" winners were:

  • " green " (see previous)
  • " Bacn " - impersonal email such as alerts, newsletters, and automated reminders that are nearly as annoying as spam - but which one has chosen to receive.
  • " celebu " - a prefix, indicates celebrity, as in celebutard.
  • " connectile dysfunction " - an inability to gain or maintain a connection.
  • " wrap rage " - anger brought on by the frustration of trying to open a factory-sealed purchase.

In the "most creative" category were:

  • " Googlegänger " (see previous)
  • " lolcat " - on the Internet, an odd or funny picture of a cat given a humorous and intentionally ungrammatical caption in large block letters
  • " tapafication " - the tendency of restaurants to serve food in many small portions, similar to tapas.

Winner of the "most euphemistic" was " human terrain team " - which refers to a group of social scientists employed by the US military to serve as cultural advisers in Iraq or Afghanistan.

In addition to "having a wide stance", other winners in the "most likely to succeed" category included:

  • " global weirding " - an increase in severe or unusual environmental activity often attributed to
  • global warming.
  • " Super-Duper - Tuesday " - February 5th, the day 23 US states will hold primary elections. Also known as Tsunami Tuesday.
  • " locavore " - someone who eats food that is grown or produced locally.
  • " texter " - a person who sends text messages.

You can view the entire list at

Members in the 118-year-old organization include linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, authors, editors, professors, university students, and independent scholars.