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HUMOR IN AMERICAN POP LANGUAGE. by Don L. F. Nilsen and Alleen Pace Nilsen . The variety shown in these books reflects the wide range of interest in words and how we use them. . American Dialect Society’s Words of the Year Selected in January of 2013.

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humor in american pop language


by Don L. F. Nilsen

and Alleen Pace Nilsen

the variety shown in these books reflects the wide range of interest in words and how we use them
The variety shown in these books reflects the wide range of interest in words and how we use them.
american dialect society s words of the year selected in january of 2013
American Dialect Society’sWords of the YearSelected in January of 2013

Dunlop Effect: “Belly done lop over Belt”

Etch a Sketch: relating to Romney

Legitimate Rape: Doesn’t result in Pregnancy

Marriage Equality: Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage

MOOC: Massive Open Online Course

Phablet: phone + tablet

YOLO: You Only Live Once


#HASHTAG: Used on Twitter to mark a (trending) topic

NOTE: This looks like hashbrown potatoes

merriam webster words of the year
Merriam-Webster Words of the Year

Recession: What we deny that we’re in

Airball: Someone who disrupts things but doesn’t do anything positive

Jingle-Mail: House keys in envelopes to be mailed to banks as the owners walk away from their mortgages

Nanomanagers: Micromanagers, but more so

Staycation: A vacation at home

THE WINNER WASBAILOUT: A word first associated with sinking ships


Each year, the American Dialect Society selects the words that have had the most impact during the previous year. Categories include:

  • Most Useful
  • Most Creative
  • Most Unnecessary
  • Most Euphemistic
  • Most Outrageous
  • Most Likely to Succeed
  • Least Likely to Succeed
  • The most fought-over is the “Word of the Year.”
  • In some years, members create special categories as when in 2006 they gave a “Best Tom-Cruise-Related Word” and in 2007 a “Best Pluto-Related Word.”
As we discuss the runners up and the winners in each of these categories ask yourself these questions:
  • Have I heard the word before?
  • What does the word mean?
  • Is the word negative or positive in connotation?
  • What does the word show about our changing culture?
most useful
Most Useful
  • PODCAST: (i-Pod + broadcast)
  • GREEN: a prefix which designates environmental concern, as in “greenwashing”
  • -ER words:
    • BIRTHER: Someone who questions Obama’s American birth
    • DEATHER: Someone who believes America has death panels
    • TENTHER: Someone who believes that what the government does is in violation of the 10th Amendment
    • TRUTHER: Someone who doubts the official account of the 9/11 accounts
most creative
Most Creative

Bragabond: Someone who travels and brags a lot

Muffin top: Bulge of fat hanging over low-rider jeans

  • Whale tail: Thong or G-string underwear above the waistband of pants, shorts, or a skirt
  • Googlegänger: A person you find on Google with your same name.
  • Dracula sneeze: Covering your mouth with the crook of your elbow when sneezing
most unnecessary
Most Unnecessary
  • Pope-squatting: Registering a domain name that you hope will be the same as the name that a new pope will choose for himself.
  • Brenifer: Something to do with Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston
  • Happy Kwanhanamas! A greeting alluding to Kwanza + Hanukka + Christmas
  • Octomom: Nadya Suleman, the woman who gave birth to octuplets
most outrageous
Most Outrageous
  • Whizzinator: Realistic prosthetic penis for passing drug tests
  • Crotchfruit: A child or children as referred to by proponents of “child-free” public spaces
  • Death Panel: The people who critics of government-provided health care say would decide if patients would live or die
  • Sexting: Texting sexual messages or pictures
  • Underpants Bomber: The Nigerian passenger who put a liquid bomb in his underwear
our vote for 2013 most outrageous words
Our vote for 2013 Most Outrageous Words:
  • Captain Sum Ting Wong
  • Wi Tu Lo
  • Ho Lee F*k
  • Bang Ding Ow

Only in the news for 2 days

Who created the names?

Was this mean spirited?

Was the timing too soon?

The airline was Korean. Were the names Korean or Chinese?

most euphemistic
Most Euphemistic
  • Extraordinary Rendition: Sending prisoners overseas for torture
  • Internal Nutrition: Force-feeding prisoners against their will.
  • To Hike the Appalachian trail: To go missing as did South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford when he went to meet a lover in Argentina.
  • Sea Kittens: A word coined by PETA to refer, with fondness, to fish.
most likely to succeed
Most Likely to Succeed
  • Cyber Monday: The Monday after Thanksgiving when people begin internet Christmas shopping
  • Sudoku: A number puzzle with each row or column containing only one instance of each number 1-9
  • To have a wide stance: To be hypocritical or to express conflicting points of view, again based on Larry Craig’s arrest in a public restroom
  • Green shoots: Signs of America’s economic recovery
least likely to succeed
Least Likely to Succeed
  • Cruiselex: Any word related to Tom Cruise
  • Pope-squatting: (See earlier definition)
  • Earmarxist: A congressman or senator who is famous for adding earmarks
  • Polywood: Hollywood stars who are political
  • Slow Media: Newspapers and other paper-based periodicals, c.f. Snail mail
special category words
Special Category Words
  • When Governor Brewer accidentally used President Obama’s name in what she meant as an endorsement for Mitt Romney, she told reporters that it was a mistake, just “Stick a fork in it!”
  • In Real Estate talk, Ninja means “No Income, No Job or Assets,” i.e. a poorly documented loan made to a high-risk borrower.
  • New words re. Blogging include blogosphere, blogerati, milblog, blogola, etc.
name of the year
Name of the Year
  • In 2009 Betraeus was chosen as it was used by to refer to General Petraeus, who at the time was our commander in Iraq.
  • This is ironic because Rush Limbaugh first used the name Betraeus to describe liberals who would not support the War in Iraq.
  • The joke lost its humor after Betraeus lost his job for having an affair.
former words of the year still in the language
Former Words of the YearStill in the Language
  • “Heck of a job” --President Bush’s compliment to Undersecretary Michael Brown, who was charged with handling the complications of Hurricane Katrina
  • “Truthiness” --first used on Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report
  • “Subprime” used to describe a risky or poorly documented loan or mortgage.
Examples from Leslie Savan’s 2006SLAM DUNKS AND NO BRAINERS:Language in Your Life, the Media, Business, Politics, and Like, Whatever

For Frustrations

For Repetitions

Blah blah blah.

Same old, same old.

Yadda yadda yadda.

  • I hate when that happens.
  • I’m having a bad hair day.
  • What was I thinking?
old slang still in use
Old Slang Still in Use
  • Been there. Done that.
  • He’s history.
  • The bottom line.
  • Chill out!
  • Go for it.
  • That’s hot.
  • To dis someone.
  • To push someone’s buttons.
  • Under the radar
  • 24/7
  • Do the math.
  • Gimme a break!
some recent buzzwords
  • Blahger: A blogger whose message consists of “blah-blah-blah.”
  • Cellular Macarena: When a cellular phone rings and everyone starts reaching into his coat, pants, purse to answer it
  • Dixie-Chicked: To be reviled or boycotted for voicing an unpopular political sentiment
more buzzwords
More Buzzwords
  • Job Spill: When work cuts into your personal time
  • Payroll Orphan: Someone who has lost their job
  • Up-Titling: Giving people an impressive title instead of a pay raise
  • YOYO: “You’re On Your Own” from text messaging
words used to identify groups with special clothing cars hair styles etc
Words used to identify groups with special clothing, cars, hair styles, etc.
  • bling wearers
  • icies (fancy jewelry)
  • glitterati
  • red states, blue states, purple states
  • yuppiness
is this how you express criticism or doubt
Is This How you Express Criticism or Doubt?
  • Excuse me!
  • Hello!
  • Duh!
  • Eat my shorts!
  • That’s so five minutes ago.
  • You just don’t get it.
  • That sucks
  • Yea, Right.
  • WTF
more options
  • I don’t think so.
  • Get over it.
  • Sign L on forehead for Loser
  • In your worst nightmare.
  • Don’t go there!
  • As if …
  • Like…
  • Puh…leez
  • That blows!
  • …Just sayin’
how about these if you want to be more positive
How about these if you want to be more positive?
  • Yessss!
  • Word!
  • Ka-ching!
  • Hua! Hua! Hua! A Marine acronym for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged”
pop culture web sites


POP MATTERS (Iain Ellis):