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Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2011: squeezed middle

Squeezed middle

has been named Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2011!

Squeezed middle: 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.

Every year, the dictionaries teams at Oxford University Press in the UK and the US put their heads together and come up with a Word (or Phrase) of the Year. This year, for the first time, both the UK and US teams have agreed on a global Word of the Year: squeezed middle.

While squeezed middle is British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband’s term for those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens while having the least with which to relieve it, the Word of the Year committee in the US felt it had good resonance in the US, as well. Susie Dent, spokesperson for Oxford Dictionaries, said: “The speed with which squeezed middle has taken root, and the likelihood of its endurance while anxieties deepen, made it a good global candidate for Word of the Year.”

The Word of the Year is a word, or expression, that we feel has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date. It need not have been coined within the past twelve months and it does not have to be a word that will stick around for a good length of time: it is very difficult to accurately predict which new words will have staying power. And while the Word of the Year has great resonance for 2011, it doesn’t mean that the word will automatically go into any of our English Dictionaries. We always wait to see good evidence that a word or expression will stay the course before we include it in an Oxford dictionary.

The US Short List

This year saw a particularly strong shortlist of contenders for Word of the Year. The shortlisted words for the US and UK differ, reflecting differences between more local issues and culture. For more information on the UK shortlist, visit the OxfordWords blog.

In alphabetical order, here is the US selection of shortlisted words:

Arab Spring n.: a series of anti-government uprisings in various countries in North Africa and the Middle East, beginning in Tunisia in December 2010. [After Prague Spring, denoting the 1968 reform movement in Czechoslovakia.]

Bunga bunga n.: used in reference to parties hosted by the former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, at which various illicit sexual activities were alleged to have taken place.

Clicktivism n.: the use of social media and other online methods to promote a cause. [Blend of click and activism.]

Crowdfunding n.: the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet. [After crowdsourcing.]

Fracking n.: the forcing open of fissures in subterranean rocks by introducing liquid at high pressure, especially to extract oil or gas. [Shortened < hydraulic fracturing.]

Gamification n.: the application of concepts and techniques from games to other areas of activity, for instance as an online marketing technique.

Occupy n.: the name given to an international movement protesting against perceived economic injustice by occupying buildings or public places and staying there for an extended period of time. [From the imperative form of the verb occupy, as in the phrase Occupy Wall Street.

The 99 percent: the bottom 99% of income earners, regarded collectively.

Tiger mother n.: a demanding mother who pushes her children to high achievement using methods regarded as typical of Asian childrearing. [Coined by Amy Chua in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.]

Sifi n.: a bank or other financial institution regarded as so vital to the functioning of the overall economy that it cannot be allowed to fail. [Acronym from systemically important financial institution. Pronounced “SIFF-ee”, rhyming with “jiffy”.]

Thoughts? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments

  1. […] Also-rans this year include Arab Spring, occupy, clicktivism, bunga bunga and tiger mother. […]

  2. […] Also-rans this year include Arab Spring, occupy, clicktivism, bunga bunga and tiger mother. […]

  3. Marly

    I’m surprised “fracking” isn’t already a word.

    I’m also surprised “jeggings” didn’t make the cut. Last December I predicted that it would be the 2011 word of the year. *facepalm*

  4. […] Dungeons & Dragons sense. No, games in the marketing sense. While Oxford may have chosen “squeezed middle” as the Word (words?) or the Year, for me it was “Gamification.” I’m not […]

  5. […] made the short list for the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2011 for the U.S.  It joined “Tiger mother,” “Arab spring,” and “The 99 percent” (though it […]

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