Oxford University Press announced its 2011 Word of the Year on Wednesday. And it is ... drumroll please ...
Which brings to mind another word: "Huh?"
Probably not the reaction the lexicographers were going for. "Squeezed middle," it turns out, is not what you get after eating Thanksgiving dinner, or wearing a too-tight waistband. It's a word -- or two words -- that British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband started using to describe, as Oxford Dictionaries puts it, "those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens while having the least with which to relieve it."
Oxford Dictionaries spokesperson Susie Dent said in a statement: "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."
For the first time, the U.S. and UK dictionary teams picked the same word.
Word nerds expressed disappointment with the selection, noting that "squeezed middle" is not largely recognized in most English-speaking countries, including America, and that there were other, stronger lexical choices on the shortlist that still embodied a similar meaning.
For starters, how about "99 percent" and "Occupy?"
It was a poor showing for Charlie Sheen, who said some of the most memorable words of 2011, and could have added some sorely missing pep to the list. No love for "Tiger Blood," "Adonis DNA," or "WINNING."
Alas, most of the final WOTY contenders conveyed political and financial disenchantment, or activism in the digital age.
Yet, according to Oxford University Press, the winning word may not even get a spot in the dictionary, which sounds more like LOSING to us:
There is no guarantee that squeezed middle will make it into an Oxford dictionary. Oxford's WOTY is simply a word that has made its mark during the year 2011, but it may be too soon to say if it will stand the test of time. We are watching and keeping it under consideration for inclusion in Oxford's 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.
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, n.: the bottom 99 percent 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".]