Social Media Speeds Up the Spread of Language

For the past seven years, the Macquarie Dictionary has been holding its “word of the year” contest.  The competition is up again this year as Australians are urged to vote for words they deem deserving of the said title.  There are 75 words chosen for 2012, which have been grouped into 15 categories such as politics and agriculture.  In 2011, the word “burqini” won after 5000 people voted.

Social Media Spreads the Words

According to Sue Butler, the editor of the Macquarie Dictionary, many words are spread through the use of social media, as well as blogs, memes, and even online jokes.  She mentions that social networks have “increased dramatically” the speeds at which topics are talked about, including popular words.

Global Flow of English

Butler also notes that words from the United States used to take 15 years before becoming commonly used in Australia.  Today, however, that period has been greatly reduced as events around the world are spread instantaneously, triggering the birth of new words or introducing new meanings to existing ones.  Thus, the “flow” of English today is much faster than before.

Macquarie Dictionary holds word of the year 2012. (Image: via

Macquarie Dictionary holds word of the year 2012. (Image: via

Nominated Words this Year

Notably, some of the words nominated this year are related to the immigration debate Down Under.  These include: “alive call” – a call made by asylum seekers to let their relatives know that they are alive; “enterprise migration agreement,” and “irregular maritime arrival” or IMA.

Business-savvy Australians have also nominated words such as “fiscal cliff” – an extreme financial crisis; “growth hacking,” “silo mentality,” and “guanxi” – a Chinese-English term indicating the development of personal or business relationships via mutual aid and contacts.

Judges to Choose Winner Next Month

Next month, the winning word will be chosen by a group of judges, which includes Vice Chancellor Michael Spence from the University of Sydney, Les Murray, a poet, and Michael Wilkins, the general manager of administration at News Limited.

Author: Neal Alfie Lasta

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