We as Americans should feel so much smarter as we bid farewell to 2010. From a educational standpoint, this year marked a noticeable expansion of our vocabulary. From top kill to containment dome, hacktivism to vuvuzela we'll welcome 2011 with a new fleet of words - some new, some so utterly repurposed that they've been stripped of their former definitions (see Junk) - that gained *special* meaning this year.
2010 was reluctantly ushered in and forcefully escorted out to the icy bookends of snowmageddon and the snowpocalypse. Twin storms that paralyzed the east coast (or, at least New York City) and bespoke of stranded passengers, massive flight delays, created frosty tensions between city leaders and residents waiting for a return to normal and had journalists trekking out into 6-foot high drifts to point out that, yes, in fact it DOES snow in winter. How novel.
Events of the spring spilled into the collective vocabulary a variety of festive-sounding, yet woefully inappropriate, words. Top Hat invoked a jaunty frivolity, but was rather a failed attempt to contain the huge environmental disaster that erupted in the Gulf Of Mexico. Known as The Spill, the millions of gallons of oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster that exploded and invaded the gulf waters also washed in a tide of words to add to the 2010 vocabulary -- blowout preventer, containment dome, top kill and SpillCam, which captured every frame of growing disaster.
The poorly named, and even more poorly executed, Junk Shot -- that being, debris and mud injected into the broken oil line in an attempt to shut down the gush of oil spilling from the ocean floor -- gave way to Junk, coined by a software programmer from San Diego who was faced with the enhanced pat-down procedure. Captured via mobile phone and posted to YouTube, John Tyner's threatened a TSA screener, saying, "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested," instantly went viral, with like-minded opponents of the security procedures rallying around the catchphrase, "Don't touch my junk." Opting Out quickly followed, as passengers threatened to hamstring security by refusing the full-body scan in favour of a full-body pat-down on the day before Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest day of the travel calendar.
2010 also gave us the Competition for the Best Soundbite Ever. In this corner, VP Joe Biden, who somehow forgot that all those cameras were actually on when he hugged the President and, in classic Joe Biden form, said that the event was "a big fucking deal." And, in the other corner, not to be outdone, and in dramatically less enthusiastic fashion, Senator Carl Levin somehow didn't care that all those cameras were actually on when he didn't hug the Goldman Sachs guys and told them they were making a "shitty deal" -- fortunately for Congress, he said it about thirty eight times. Guess he was making up for Biden having left the Senate.
This year's hacktivists - combining grassroots enthusiasm with nefarious computer skills -- gave us one more -gate to keep WaterGate, TrooperGate and MonicaGate company: CableGate. Provided by yet another 2010 word, WikiLeaks taught Americans that no secret is truly safe, particularly in the technological age. Especially if you're Tiger Woods.
The fall political season introduced us to Mama Grizzlies, those fiercely conservative women who ran in the midterm elections, some of them compounding problems for the Republican Party's goal of retaking both houses of Congress, though the main Mama Grizzly refudiated that assertion, while simultaneously -- and possibly mistakenly -- harkening back to the Bush-isms of the previous years (see misunderestimated). The midterm election saw candidates admonished to Man Up or face a devastating loss. Those who lost their seats were part of a collective shellacking; and those who won made inroads with the President via the Slurpee Summitt.
And, finally, 2010 gave us the memorable, if unpronounceable, Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH-lah-YOH-kul), the Icelandic volcano that stymied travel all over Europe, as well as twisting the tongues of -- well, everyone except the dude who named it. Thanks, by the way.
But fear not, even the most mangled pronunciation of "IslandVolcanoGlacier" (say it fast and it's really close) was drowned out when the World Cup began and Americans -- and the world -- came to know and equally love and loathe the relentless cacophony of noise in the stadium, in the form of the Vuvuzela.
And Happy 2011. Can we please stop saying "junk" now?