For the first time in the 25 years that it's been choosing a Word of the Year, the American Dialect Society has chosen a hashtag as its Word of the Year.
You'll remember that the 2012 WOTY was, actually, hashtag.
Now, the ADS has chosen for the 2014 WOTY an actual hashtag: #blacklivesmatter.
The vote, taken January 9 in Portland, Oregon, reflects the strength of the hashtag, which was used to protest the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and other blacks at the hands of police. In the cases of Brown (Ferguson, Missouri) and Garner (Staten Island, NY), grand juries chose not to indict the officers involved. You can read the entire news release here.
In a more general sense, the choosing of a hashtag as the Word of the Year is yet another sign of the increasing influence of social media on language. It's also a tribute to the pithiness and succinctness that hashtags can inspire.
Even the 2013 WOTY, because, was chosen mainly for the new way in which it is being used, and that way is due, in part, to the prevalence of Tweeting and texting.
In the entries (here and here) immediately before this one, I offered my guesses for Word of the Year. My "real" guess was hack, a nod to the frequent data breaches of personal info stored online. I thought that because the Sony hack related to the movie The Interview was recent, it might get some consideration. But, no. Hack didn't even get a nomination.
Interestingly, my first and, admittedly, frivolous guess was closer to the mark. This past summer, a reporter at the TV station I work for interviewed a boy named Noah Ritter at the Wayne County Fair. He grabbed the microphone and, in the course of about one minute, used the word apparently several times as he riffed on the rides and the Powerball. The video went viral and Noah became known around the world as the #ApparentlyKid.
Apparently, I should have taken my guess one step further.
Oh well, there's always #WOTY2015.