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Saturday, November 30th 2013

1:08 PM

Does Obamacare Cover Injuries Caused by Twerking?

What if a selfie exists as proof of how I got hurt?

With a title and lead like that, it can only mean one thing: The time to predict the 2013 Word of the Year (WOTY) is here!

The American Dialect Society will choose the 2013 WOTY on January 3, 2014 at its annual meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It can get pretty cold up there in January, so expect a flurry of activity as members choose from words that cross a broad spectrum of parts of speech and usages.

Last year, the ADS chose "hashtag" (#) as the 2012 word of the year. I had my money on the politically-motivated "double down," but the victory of the symbol popularized by Twitter shows the growing influence of social media in our society and in our language.

In mid-November, the folks at Oxford Dictionaries reinforced the trend toward social media dominance by choosing "selfie" as their own Word of the Year.

In case you don't know what a selfie is, Oxford Dictionaries defines it as "a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website." So, basically, a selfie is a picture that you take of yourself to show your friends, friends of friends, and followers how cool you think you are.

The selfie garnered some buzz back in June, when former first lady/presidential candidate/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton snapped a selfie with daughter Chelsea (check it out here). The article about that selfie (which appears to have been taken by Chelsea) also notes that Hillary had joined Twitter a few days earlier. And, on a related topic, who can forget the short-lived but highly entertaining Texts from Hillary meme in 2012. If Hillary does run in 2016, she'll have the edge in social media, I think. (Although, I must say, NJ Gov. Chris Christie has a Twitter account and he's not afraid to use it!)

So, admittedly "selfie" is a strong contender for the 2013 WOTY. But, I don't think we should hand over the trophy just yet. There are some other strong contenders out there. Thanks to Miley Cyrus, "twerk" worked its way into the Oxford Dictionaries Online edition over the summer ("selfie" also made the cut). The twerking phenomenon also inspired this epic prank from the folks at Jimmie Kimmel Live.

The original version cut off when the girl catches fire. It went viral, and one of our producers wanted to air it in her newscast. She got overruled - not because twerking was involved but because someone caught fire! A day or so later, Kimmel revealed the prank.

If you like your Word of the Year to have a political edge, a couple of top contenders would seem to be Obamacare and sequestration. Despite efforts by the White House and Democrats to reinforce the term "Affordable Care Act," the Obamacare tag has stuck and doesn't seem to be going away.

The Federal budget cuts imposed by sequestration took effect for several weeks over the summer. There was much hand-wringing and political posturing leading up to actual sequestration. But, the impact of the cuts was lessened somewhat as government departments and agencies found money or moved money around to shorten furloughs and get those parks open again. Once everything reopened, you didn't hear too much about sequestration.

As I mentioned earlier, I whiffed on the 2012 WOTY by betting on "double down" when "hashtag" was destined to win.

But, I'm not giving up on politics just yet. I'm going with "Obamacare" as my pick for the 2013 WOTY. It's the law of the land, and no matter how long it takes to get the website working, it's not going anywhere. Obamacare is here to stay, and I think that gives the word more power than the trendy "selfie."

If you have a suggestion for the 2013 Word of the Year, you can email the American Dialect Society at woty@americandialect.org .
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