Words such as ‘tweetup’, ‘staycation’ and ‘jeggings’ provide a snapshot of Britain in the last year, according to dictionary expert Susie Dent.
The Countdown regular said language associated with the Twitter social networking site and the recession stood out in her scan of the Oxford English Corpus.
Dent used the two-billion-word database of contemporary language to pick out her words of the last year, which she believed encapsulated the preoccupations and lifestyles of 2009.
She said words such as tweetup, which means meetings organised via the website, along with Facebook references like defriend, showed the influence of technology on vocabulary.
Staycation — to describe having a holiday at home rather than abroad — and the modern twist on an historic event, Great Recession, reflected the financial situation. Dent also singled out zombie bank — a financial institution whose liabilities are greater than its assets but continues to operate because of government support. In the world of fashion, leggings made of denim-look fabric led people to call them jeggings, prompting Dent to add them to her list for the year. But she said her favourite word was the advertising catchphrase of a Russian meerkat which made a surprising entrance into common usage.
Aleksandr's ‘simples’ has become a modern phenomenon for people to describe something that is very easy to achieve.
Dent said: “The word of the year for many would probably be staycation: few use it seriously, but it is a good example of how new words are coined to fit a changing environment — in this case a money-strapped one.
“Tweet (and the huge Twitter lexicon that has emerged, including the twitterati, twitterverse and tweet-ups) is another strong candidate.
“I think my favourite, though, is probably simples, because it is proof of the dynamism of language as it is picked up through popular culture so that a word or expression is propelled into daily currency within weeks.
“We may not like it, and it may well not last, but it proves that English is moving quickly and is as robust as ever.”
But it is unlikely simples will make it into the Oxford dictionary, she added, whereas staycation could eventually warrant a place because it is used with such frequency.
Dent said: “All the words on the list were chosen from Oxford's language-monitoring programme for their topicality and for the snapshot they give of our preoccupations over the year.”
- Bossnapping noun (in France) The prevention of senior managers from leaving company premises for a period of time by their employees, in order to protest about large-scale redundancies and cutbacks.
- Zombie bank noun A financial institution whose liabilities are greater than its assets, but which continues to operate because of government support.
- Jeggings plural noun Close-fitting leggings made of fabric that resembles denim in appearance
- Minute mentoring noun A system of advising aspiring professionals based on the format of speed-dating.
- Tweetup noun A meeting or other gathering organised by means of posts on the social networking service Twitter.
- Staycation noun A holiday spent in one's home country rather than abroad,
- Simples exclamation Used to say that something is easy to achieve (from the “compare the meerkat” TV ad).