Buzzwords in 2013: What Made Them Buzz?

Buzzwords in 2013: What Made Them Buzz?

Selfie, Subtweet, Sharknado, Twerk, Catfishing: What do they all have in common? These made for some of the top new words (or neologisms) in 2013.  But here’s the real question, how long will the buzz last in society? In a recent Wall Street Journal article (The Words That Popped in 2013), the experts looked into the top words of the year and spoke out about how long the words will really remain popular.

As the speed of information increases, many believe that the expiration date of these words is consistently decreasing.  But is this just something we should chalk up to a failure of modern society or is it something that we should embrace, enjoying the creativity and effervescence that comes with new words?

2013 Buzzword Trend: Portmanteau

One of the biggest trends in 2013 was that of the portmanteau.  What is a portmanteau?  Defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a Portmanteau is a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (as smog from smoke and fog).

What are some examples of a portmanteau?  Among others, some of the most popular of these are thundersnow (Thunderstorm and Snowstorm), cronut (Croissant and Donut), sharknado (A Tornado full of sharks- Result of a Made-For-TV movie on SciFi),  and Thanksgivukkah (A rare occurrence when Thanksgiving and Hanukkah fall on the same day).

What makes these so popular? Simply put, it allows for the creation of a novel word without making the new word too confusing or unusable.  Usually, both of these words need to be noticeable to stand on their own, but beneficial when combined.

The FUDGE Scale

What is the FUDGE scale? A measure of how well a word will fit into the societal use; the FUDGE scale was introduced by Allen Metcalf in his book Predicting New Words.  Specifically focusing on the following qualities: Frequency, Unobtrusiveness, Diversity, Generation, and Endurance; the FUDGE scale defines the potential success of new words.

Selfie and Related Buzzwords

Already ranked by Oxford Dictionary as the “2013 Word of the Year,” Selfie has stemmed from social media networks, being specifically defined as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

Beating out words such as “Binge-Watching,” “Bitcoin,” “Showrooming,” and “Twerk;” selfie has gained an incredible amount of spinoffs and usage in mainstream media. Selfie has also generated spinoffs including Grelfie (Group selfie), Lelfie (Selfie of one’s legs), shelfie (A picture of one’s bookshelf), or snowfies (Made popular by the Weather Channel- A selfie in the snow).

Will selfie stand up to the American Dialect Society?  The American Dialect Society, or ADS, is the next step in a word gaining recognition as the “Word of the Year.” Since 1990, the ADS has selected words that have made some impact on society; and also rates words based on other factors including “Most Outrageous,” “Most Likely to Succeed,” “Most Unnecessary,” and “Most Useful.” Examples of the American Dialect Society Words of the Year can be found in their press releases.


What do these words mean to you?  How long will each of these last? What will the words of 2014 be? Will the “Most Likely to Succeed” words in 2013 be “Plutoed (2006)” from societal use? How long till the bubble bursts? New words or neologisms certainly have relevance to brand name development and brand messaging, especially for trend-related products.

Please comment, bookmark, Like and Share using the tools below on your opinion of the words this year.

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