The American Dialect Society, during its annual conference on January 6, 2012, voted "occupy" as its Word of the Year for 2011. Founded in 1889, the organization is devoted to the study of the English language--and of other languages and dialects influencing English--in North America. It counts among its members "linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, authors, editors, professors, university students, and independent scholars." Membership is open to anyone.
The Society began voting on Words of the Year in 1990, although it does not regard its selections as conferring any official status on lexical items. Rather it seeks to emphasize that language change is a normal, ongoing process; indeed, earlier winners such as "Y2K" and "chad" are examples of words that have fallen into relative disuse.
In addition to Word of the Year, additional categories are voted on; below are listed all the winners for 2011:
Word of the Year
occupy -- verb, noun, and combining form referring to the Occupy protest movement.
humblebrag -- expression of false humility, especially by celebrities on Twitter.
Mellencamp -- a woman who has aged out of being a “cougar” (after John Cougar Mellencamp).
bi-winning -- term used by Charlie Sheen to describe himself pridefully, dismissing accusations of being bipolar.
assholocracy -- rule by obnoxious multi-millionaires.
job creator -- a member of the top one-percent of moneymakers.
Most Likely to Succeed
cloud -- online space for the large-scale processing and storage of data.
Least Likely to Succeed
brony -- adult male fan of the “My Little Pony” cartoon franchise.
Occupy Words (new category)
the 99%, 99 percenters -- those held to be at a financial or political disadvantage to the top moneymakers, the one-percenters.
In commenting on this year's Word of the Year, Ben Zimmer, chair of the Society's New Words Committee, observed: “It’s a very old word, but over the course of just a few months it took on another life and moved in new and unexpected directions, thanks to a national and global movement. The movement itself was powered by the word.”
Visit the American Dialect Society's website to learn more about this year's contest and past winners. In a related vote, the American Name Society chose "Arab Spring" as its Name of the Year for 2011.
Note: The pervasiveness of "Occupy" is evidenced even by its presence as part of Bill Griffith's Zippy cartoon for January 8, 2012.