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Quartz/Elan Kiderman
Coming ’round on pronouns.
THEY DID IT

The American Dialect Society has spoken: These are the words that defined 2015

Nikhil Sonnad
By Nikhil Sonnad

Reporter

The 127-year-old American Dialect Society (ADS) was, as far as we know, the first organization to declare a word of the year. A host of dictionaries, media outlets, and others now offer their own choices for word of the year, but the ADS—made up of linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, and other researchers—still gives the most authoritative account of big linguistic movements over 12 months of American English.

Each January, ADS members nominate and vote on words in various categories; think of it as the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards of linguistics. There is a category for word of the year, of course, but also most creative word, most outrageous, least likely to succeed, and more. New categories this year are most notable emoji and most notable hashtag.

And the awards for 2015 are in.

The word of the year? Singular “they,” used to refer to a person of any gender, as in the sentence, “If somebody decides to take on this challenge, I sure hope they know what they’re getting in to.” This usage replaces what we’ve long been told should be “he or she,” only it is shorter, already widely used in conversation, and does not imply the old man/woman gender binary. (Quartz independently chose “they” this year as well.)

“While editors have increasingly moved to accepting singular they when used in a generic fashion, voters in the Word of the Year proceedings singled out its newer usage as an identifier for someone who may identify as ‘non-binary’ in gender terms,” the ADS noted in its official statement.

Here are the full results for all categories, including the total number of votes, and definitions provided by ADS.

Word of the Year

NomineeMeaning
ammosexualsomeone who loves firearms in a fetishistic manner
ghost(verb) abruptly end a relationship by cutting off communication, especially online
on fleekput together, impeccable, well-arrayed
thanks, Obamasarcastic expression in which a person pretends to blame Obama for a problem
theygender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, particularly as a nonbinary identifier

 Most Useful

NomineeMeaning
mic dropdefinitive end to a discussion after making an impressive point
microaggressionsubtle form of racism or bias
shadeinsult, criticism or disrespect, shown in a subtle or clever manner
theygender-neutral singular pronoun for a known person, particularly as a nonbinary identifier
zero fucks given, ZFGindication of supreme indifference

Most Creative

NomineeMeaning
adult(verb) behave like a grownup
ammosexualsomeone who loves firearms in a fetishistic manner
lowkey(adverb) to a small extent, in a subtle manner; opposite of highkey
squadone’s posse or close circle of friends
yass, yaass, yaaass, etc.expression of excitement, approval or strong agreement

Most Unnecessary

NomineeMeaning
dadbodthe flabby physique of a typical dad
manbunman’s hairstyle pulled up in a bun
or nahquestion tag expressing that something may not occur
trigger warningalert for potentially distressing material
thanks, Obamasarcastic expression in which a person pretends to blame Obama for a problem

Most Outrageous

NomineeMeaning
fish gapeposed expression with cheeks sucked in and lips slightly apart
fuckboy, fuckboiderogatory term for a man who behaves objectionably or promiscuously
schlong(verb) defeat soundly
sharewashingdeceptive marketing by companies treating services as “sharing
white student unioncampus organization organized in response to a black student union

Most Euphemistic

NomineeMeaning
af, asfintensifier after an adjective (abbreviation for “as fuck”)
litamazing, exciting or fun
Netflix and chillsexual come-on masked as a suggestion to watch Netflix and relax
swipe right/leftaccept or reject (based on gestures used on Tinder dating app)

Most Likely to Succeed

NomineeMeaning
CRISPRgene-editing technology allowing biologists to alter and control DNA sequences
ghost(verb) abruptly end a relationship by cutting off communication, especially online
momadmiring term of address for a woman seen as a mother figure
on fleekput together, impeccable, well-arrayed

Least Likely to Succeed

NomineeMeaning
Berniementummomentum behind the candidacy of Bernie Sanders
hoverboardself-balancing motorized skateboard
sitbitdevice that rewards sedentary lifestyle (play on Fitbit fitness tracker)
Uber for Xpitch used by startups seeking to emulate Uber in different tech sectors

Most Notable Hashtag

NomineeMeaning
#JeSuisParisexpression of solidarity after the Paris terror attacks
#LoveWinscelebration of Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage
#SayHerNamecall to bring attention to violence against women of color
#StayMadAbbyridiculing plaintiff in Univ of Texas affirmative action case.
#StayWokeexhortation to remain vigilant and informed (used by #BlackLivesMatter movement)

Most Notable Emoji

NomineeMeaning
😍heart eyes (romantic, passionate)
😉winking face (humorous, flirtatious)
💁information desk person (sassy, sarcastic)
🍆eggplant (sexual innuendo)
💯100 (“keep it 100,” “keep it real”)