A few weeks ago, the Oxford Dictionary and Dictionary.com announced their selections for Word of the Year; Merriam-Webster and the American Dialect Society (ADS) will release their choices in January. Each entity has a slightly different set of factors it takes into consideration, but all emphasize that the word or phrase must have become prominent or notable during the previous year. The team at Oxford Dictionary considers suggestions sent to them via social media, and the teams at M-W and Dictionary.com count the number of lookups a word has received on their websites. Members of ADS acknowledge that language change can be entertaining as well so they also vote for words deemed “most useful,” “most creative,” “most unnecessary,” “most outrageous,”—and for the newly created categories of “most notable hashtag,” and “most notable emoji.”
I’m just as intrigued by these lists as I am by Lake Superior State University’s Annual List of Banished Words—a list of language pet peeves that was first dreamed up as a publicity ploy at a New Year’s Eve party and now takes nominations from the general public.
Each of these lists paint a vivid picture of who we are and what we’re thinking about at a particular point in time.
Which brings me to the weird words that have floated through our home ever since our children were young. We call them “Converse-isms.” They’re made-up words that make no sense when used in conversations outside the family but always elicit laughter when uttered inside our walls. We don’t always agree on how they’re spelled, but they remind us of a particular person, place, or event and paint pictures that swirl with color. No linguist or grammarian would consider our Converse-isms notable but you can be sure we do.
I suspect there’s a similar list of weird words in your home and I hope they inspire you to write. All words—whether selected as Word of the Year or as one to be banished—have a role to play. Thanks for looking to Literary Mama for the words we believe should be part of the discourse.
Welcome to our December issue!
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When, Not If by Jessica Fokken
Sharp Star by Kendra Juskus
I Tell My Son Last Kiss by Allison Blevins
When I Do My Daughter’s Hair Something Inside Me Sings by Karen Loeb
Closely Knit by Kristin Roedell
Permanently Reserved Space by Sarah Weaver
A Review of The Death of Fred Astaire and other essays from a life outside the lines by Katherine Stutzman
A Review of The Body’s Alphabet by Trish Hopkinson
Photos by Maria Scala, Lisa Lopez Smith, and Heather Vrattos