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Your words of 2011

We asked our regular blog contributors this final question in 2011:

What word sums up 2011 for you and why?

A brand-new word perhaps, or a well-used one throughout the year. Or perhaps a word that is particularly relevant to your experience of the year.

Here are some of the answers to the question:

It’s a gloomy one, but I’d have to say the word austerity. In the context of economic meltdown and us all having to ‘do our bit’ to redress the financial misdemeanours of the past few years, the meaning of austerity has in 2011 made the journey from relatively obscure, extreme situation of unpleasantness to a generally accepted scenario which governments, a bit like disciplining an unruly teenager, seem to be suggesting we should jolly well put up with and swallow like cod liver oil – tastes nasty but will do you good in the long run …
Kerry Maxwell

My word of the year – and really, of the decade – is inequality. While the divide between the rich and the poor and middle class has been soaring for years now in America, the problem has only recently been highlighted by the media, and thus entered the broader public debate.  Inequality of wealth is one of the central defining features of our age. Where I live, in New York City,  the median household income is now only $48,743, five percent lower than 2007. Fully 75,000 more New Yorkers fell below the meager federal poverty line ($18,310 for a family of three) this year than last, marking the largest yearly hike in two decades. The total population of poor New Yorkers is now 1.6 million, equaling one in five residents. Yet according to the my organization’s  analysis of Forbes data, the 57 billionaires now living in New York City have a net worth of $211 billion, an $11 billion increase in the last year alone. Their net worth now equals the annual income of over four million average New York City families, or 14 million people working full-time at a minimum wage salary. The fact that 57 people now have as much money as 14 full-time workers is nothing short of obscene.  I am still a committed capitalist, and still believe in the opportunity that allowed my grandparents to build a better life for their children and grandchildren through hard work. But it has never been clearer that today’s distorted crony capitalism needs to be reformed to once again ensure everyone who works hard and plays by the rules has a shot at the American dream.
Still, I have problems with the word inequality because it implies that its opposite is equality, which some may falsely interpret to mean some sort of socialist system in which everyone is promised equal outcomes. I don’t believe in equal outcomes, merely equal opportunity. So perhaps the word of the year should be a new word – inopportunity – which should be balanced by a new societal focus on “opportunity.”
Joel Berg from New York City Coalition Against Hunger

Techaplenty – yeah, it’s not really a word. I just made it up to describe my 2011. I’ve been learning a lot of about mobile devices and editing software this year because I think some interesting ebooks and apps for English language teaching might be just around the corner. And if that’s true, maybe 2012 will be a techabundant.
Vicki Hollett

My vote goes to occupy – not a new word, not even a new meaning (students used to occupy campus buildings back in the 1970s), but a new phenomenon in the present century. There’s a temptation for old curmudgeons like myself to think the younger generation is only interested in celebrities, consumerism, and reality TV, but I’m pleased to have been proved wrong by the growth of the Occupy Movement (which made a big enough impact on the news to become one of our BuzzWords). Partly inspired by the Arab Spring protests and the Indignados in Spain, the movement represents grassroots opposition to what is seen as the control over public policy exerted by banks and big corporations – which led to the inequalities highlighted here by Joel Berg. (I’ve just read that the top ten US CEO’s earned almost $800 million between them last year…)
Michael Rundell

Word: Jobs. Cheating a bit here with a proper noun but jobs (lack of) have also dominated the news cycle. As an Apple person since the Dawn of Time I have increasingly had mixed feelings about my tribe – the products are beautiful but over-priced, the fans embarrassingly smug (yes, you Mr Fry!). It also hard to warm to a founder who declared ‘thermo-nuclear war’ on a competitor (Google). But where would I be without my iPod and my Mac Mini? And why do I want to squander £400 on a tablet that shuts out the latest BBC iPlayer?
Kieran McGovern from eslreading

My word of the year is Higgs Boson. It’s two words, so will incur the wrath of Geoff Pullum, but that’s a risk I’ll have to take. Scientists (obviously if this were a British newspaper I’d have written “boffins”) at CERN now say they have seen a hint of this elusive particle, and assembled a press conference to make the announcement. This being 2011, the event was simultaneously being tweeted from the seminar room, with such eye-opening tweets as this: #ATLAS sees a small excess at a Higgs mass of 126 GeV coming from 3  channels. Local significance: 3.6 sigma but only 2.4 sigma globally. I think that just about says it all, really.
Stephen Bullon

How about you? What word ‘defines’ 2011 for you?

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Laine Redpath Cole

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