If you managed to get through 2013 without “twerking,” “vaping,” taking a “selfie” or “mining a bitcoin,” rest easy. I think your life may be the richer for it.
But if you didn’t even hear any of those words, maybe you should get out more. According to the researchers who keep track of word usage for dictionaries, you would have missed out on the same sort of timely chatter that made 2012 a big year for “sexting,” “man cave,” “Frankenstorm,” “cloud computing” and “bucket list.”
Some words in each year are new. Others are old but find new life in new times. Among the most-used words in 2013, prominent themes include money, narcissism, entitlement, self-delusion and overflowing waste. As a social critic, I am grateful to find so much sustenance for my inner grump.
• Affluenza. A theoretical term in psychology for what most people call “a spoiled kid.” Lawyers cited affluenza in 2013 to defend a wealthy 16-year-old Texan who killed four people and paralyzed one while driving drunk. The judge apparently bought it. He sentenced the kid to 10 years’ probation. No prison, just therapy at a lush rehab clinic, paid for by his parents. Meanwhile, thousands of nonviolent offenders cool their heels in prison, paid for by the taxpayer. Judges like this one give “affluenza” a bad name.
• Bitcoin. A unit of alleged digital “money” that offers everything that paper currency offers, except stability, reliability or transparency. Now you see it … No, you don’t. It’s not clear who’s behind bitcoin, but its biggest users appear to be international gangsters and the Wall Street geniuses who gave us “derivatives” and the 2008 crash. Hey, what possibly could go wrong?
• Fatberg. No, it’s not a new nickname dreamed up by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s rivals. It is British slang for the yucky lumps of congealed cooking fat, wet wipes, baby nappies and other debris that clog London’s sewers. Fat- berg bounced around the globe in August when a record-sized 15-ton ball of the stuff had to be dislodged with shovels and water jets.
• Lean In. It’s not just good advice to near-sighted desktop computer programmers anymore. As a recent episode of the FX sitcom “The League” put it, “lean in” is “the white collar version of ‘Git-R-Done,’ “ Larry the Cable Guy’s famous slogan. “Lean In” became a clarion call to upwardly ambitious professional women after Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s bestseller by that title. A decade after rapper Fat Joe’s 2004 hit “Lean Back,” it’s time to change direction.