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John Tepper Marlin

John Tepper Marlin

Posted January 10, 2009 | 04:07 PM (EST)

Word of the Year 2008: "Bailout" (In Use, 1970s)


The Word of the Year 2008 is bailout, according to the American Dialect Society, which balloted yesterday in San Francisco. The word is understood by the Society to mean "rescue by the government of companies on the brink of failure, including large players in the banking industry."

The ADS word-of-the-year is only 19 years old, or the Society would have run into "bailout" before, at least as long ago as the late 1970s when used to describe the proposed first rescue of the Chrysler Corporation.

The word was used in a description of the unflappable lady who handled the matter for Senator William Proxmire's Banking Committee, Elinor Bachrach (who later became Deputy to NY State Comptroller Ned Regan). She also dealt with New York City's rescue in 1975 and a couple of other institutions in trouble. So a term of endearment by which she was then known was "Billion-Dollar Bailout Bachrach" - with another word before "Bailout", something like Boondoggle or Basket-Case.

So if the ADS word-of-the-year were a little older, "bailout" might be have been taken and the winning word could then have been one of these:
- Most creative: recombobulation area, at Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport where passengers who "have just passed through security screening can get their clothes and belongings back in order."
- Most unnecessary: moofing, i.e., "mobile out of office," working with laptop and cell phone.
- Most outrageous: terrorist fist jab, a knuckle-to-knuckle fist bump, or "dap," traditionally performed between two black people as a sign of friendship, celebration or agreement and described as "the terrorist fist jab" by newscaster E. D. Hill, formerly of Fox News.
- Most likely to succeed: shovel-ready, an infrastructure projects that can be started quickly when funds become available.

Other nominees that caught my eye:
lipstick on a pig: An adornment of something that can't be made pretty.
game-changer: In business and politics, something that alters the nature of a marketplace, relationship, or campaign. From sports. "something that changes a match or contest."
Palinesque: Pertaining to persons who have extended themselves beyond their expertise, thereby bringing ridicule upon a serious matter.
long photo: A video of 90 seconds or less. Used by the photo-sharing web site Flickr.
First Dude: The husband of a governor or president.
bromance: A very close relationship between two heterosexual men.