The people have spoken. More than 2,000 cast votes in TIME’s 2013 word banishment poll, an annual ritual in which we ask our readers to decide which term they would like to banish from everyone’s vocabularies forevermore. And the decided winner is twerk, a word that handily beat out 14 other contenders to be crowned The Thing You Never Want to Hear Again.
The term describes a hip-thrusting dance infamously performed by Miley Cyrus this summer and joins winners from the past two years: YOLO and OMG/WTF/LOL. Twerk has the proud distinction of being both the first verb and the first non-acronym to really, really get under people’s skin. That word also earned the biggest chunk of votes in the poll’s history; at nearly 27%, twerk topped the 22% who cast ballots for YOLO last year.
Here are the runners-up:
- In second place is hashtag at 13%. We made it clear that this is a vote for the word, not the symbol, particularly when used to faux-label live, face-to-face conversation.
- In third place is selfie at 8%. Selfie was much buzzed about as Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year, a choice that led to some what-is-society-coming-to criticism.
- In fourth place is swagger at over 7%. An early favorite going into the poll, the worn-out term describing coolness just didn’t have the votes for proper banishment. Epic fail, presh, lolz and awesome sauce all won between 6% and 7% of the vote.
In short, twerk crushed it.
Twerk also seems to be a different kind of winner than previous champions, embodying a different kind of angst. YOLO and the other acronyms are disliked as overused, vapid words—the kinds of things that bros or valley girls might yell when jumping off a pier or when seeing someone jump off a pier. (Admittedly, they’d have to be pretty cold-hearted to say “LOL!”) The word twerk isn’t used the same way in day-to-day living. It’s not something that people are interjecting into casual yakking at the water cooler or in Gchat. All you need is an element of surprise to utter “WTF,” but you need a much more specific set of circumstances to require the word twerk.
That disparity suggests that what people really want to banish is the act of twerking and the over-reporting of everything twerk-related. And there is at least a little evidence to back that analysis up. In TIME’s poll description, we presented the frustration with twerk thusly: “You can’t un-see that clip of Miley Cyrus, but everyone can stop talking about a ‘dance’ that symbolizes the shallow horrors of modern pop culture.”
Regardless of why people cast their votes as they did, the result remains the same: twerk is hereby banished in 2014! While we can’t promise that the world will leave the beaten-to-death fad behind in 2013 where it belongs, we can at least promise that you won’t see that word in this column again. Thanks for voting, and bring your inner curmudgeon back next year.
This is an edition of Wednesday Words, a weekly feature on language. For the previous post, click here.