It’s (Word) Award Season!

Victor Wishna

Staff Writer

Victor Wishna's work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Baltimore Sun, the New York Post, NPR,, and others. His writing and editing services firm, The Vital Word helps find the right words for nonprofit, corporate, and individual clients. Follow him on Twitter: @vwishna.

Well, as you can probably tell by the fact that your neighbors have had their Christmas lights up for nearly a month now, we are slowly but surely approaching the end of another year. ’Tis the season not just for getting a great deal on an Xbox at Walmart,* but for reflecting on the year gone (going) by, noting the highlights, and—particularly if you edit or write for any kind of publication, such as a blog—singling out people, places, and things in all variety of categories as “____ Of The Year.”

*Assuming you know how.

That goes for words, too—not just in terms of writing or literature, but words themselves. And just as music has the Grammys and the AMAs, film has the Oscars and the Golden Globes, and, of course, bowling has both the National Bowling Association and U.S. Bowling Congress Awards, the “Word of the Year” depends on which authority you consult.

For example, in a couple of weeks, Merriam-Webster should be announcing its assessment of the term that most captures Americans’ mood and interests this year, according to how frequently it has been looked up on (last year’s winner: “austerity”). The American Dialect Society will be putting its finalists for 2011 WOTY up for online voting in January.

But the earliest returns are in, thanks to Oxford University Press, publishers of the Oxford English Dictionary. The winning word by consensus—consensus because editors of both the British and American editions agreed, which apparently doesn’t happen too often—is really two words: “squeezed middle.” Its introduction credited to British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, the word/phrase is defined by the OED as “the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty, consisting principally of those people on low or middle incomes.”

And that’s the thing about awards…from “austerity” to “squeezed middle,” they are just so feel-good.

So…what would you nominate as your favorite/most important/all-around bestest word of this year?