Wednesday Words: The Final Word of the Year and More

NewsFeed's weekly highlight of our vocabulary: humans say the darnedest things.

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David McGlynn

hashtag (v.): to mark topics or make commentary on Twitter by means of a hash symbol (#) followed by a word or phrase.

The American Dialect Society, the mother of all word-of-the-year-proclaiming outlets, elected hashtag as the most pivotal word of 2012 at their annual meeting in early January. Twitter reached 200 million active monthly users in 2012, collectively hashtagging untold troves of tweets, and surely sparking an even greater hashtag craze with this latest pronouncement. As with Oxford Dictionaries’ anointed word — the verb to GIF — social media proves to be our modern linguistic muse.

social spread (n.): the difference in well-being between the rich and poor.

In a recent speech to diplomats, none other than the Pope himself said people should be thinking as much about social “spreads” as financial ones, Reuters reports. “In a word, it is a question of refusing to be resigned to a ‘spread’ in social well-being, while at the same time fighting one in the financial sector,” Benedict said. By omission, we assume spreads related to horse races or toast-buttering are good to go.

unedifying (adj.): distasteful, esp. of an event taking place in public.

This bit of vocabulary was highlighted today by Newswordy, a nifty site that collects buzzwords used in the media. Piers Morgan dropped this adjective into comments about his now-famous run-in with conservative personality Alex Jones, who came on Morgan’s show to discuss gun control. “There’s got to be a level of discourse that can rise above what happened last night,” Morgan told Politico. “It was undignified, unedifying.” But admittedly pretty good television.

(MORE: Reality TV Journalism: Alex Jones Shoots His Mouth Off on Piers Morgan)

sub-pod (n.): one of multiple small groups that makes up a social herd of dolphins. 

Think of sub-pods as the cliques that travel among various dolphin parties; once in a sub-pod, flippers will often stick to that small group while frequently changing pods. The reason this matters at all to you is because a fin-tastic video of a dolphin “stampede” is making the rounds, and a stampede occurs when various sub-pods of dolphins come together for a mighty watery romp.

winter vomiting (n.): a nickname for norovirus illnesses, a group that affects the stomach and the intestines.

New strains of norovirus, which sometimes go by the very literal nickname of “winter vomiting,” are capturing headlines overseas. British health officials have named the main strain “Sydney 2012,” reports the Irish Independent, and have linked it to winter-vomiting outbreaks from Japan to Wales. You can read a breakdown of the unsavory symptoms here. Friendly reminder: washing your hands is the coolest.