A wordy year ends at last

Picking a word, or words, of the year for 2012 is pretty difficult.

There are binders full of possibilities.

You can turn to the experts. The Oxford American Dictionaries picked the acronym “GIF” as its word of the year. A GIF, pronounced jif,” short for Graphics Interchange Format, is a short, looping online animation now very popular on the interwebs. But I much prefer Oxford’s British word of the year, “omnishambles," basically meaning a total mess.

Dictionary.com picked “bluster” as the best 2012 sum-up. It was, after all, the year that gave us a “superstorm” and the insipid, daunting “fiscal cliff.”

Merriam-Webster bases its picks on the most searched words at its website. This year’s top words are “socialism” and “capitalism.” Yawn. A better pick, I think, was the word that caused the biggest single one-day spike in searches. That was “malarkey,’ uttered by Vice President Joe Biden during his debate with Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

Together, malarkey, bluster and omnishambles do a fairly good job summing up this election year. But, thanks to “dark money,” I can’t say, exactly, who approved this message. It’s enough to make some people explore the possibility of “secession.” And when the dust settled, ironically, it was Mitt Romney who ended up with just more than “47 percent” of the vote.

It’s much easier to find words that folks want to toss into the trash bin as 2012 ends. On Lake Superior State University’s annual list are the now overused “amazing,” “baby bump,” “shared sacrifice,” “occupy,” “blowback,” “man cave,” “the new normal,” “pet parent,’ “win the future,” “trickeration,” “ginormous,” and “thank you in advance.” I think this list is “epic.”

I might also add “YOLO,” short for you only live once,” all 50 shades of “mommy porn” and both “broga,” yoga for guys, and “doga,” yoga for dogs.

Locally, it was a year of finding the right words to get people to stop doing things. The City Council is determined to take on “aggressive panhandlers” looking for a hand out, and to banish loud critics from city hall who are guilty of a planned “criminal trespass” ordinance. If your property is a “nuisance,” you may find yourself in “tiers.” And we won’t be a “Blue Zone” until we waddle away from the doughnuts. We've hashed and rehashed red light cameras. Now, get ready for “automated license plate recognition.”

And we already have an early candidate for 2013’s word of the year, as Cedar Rapids casino backers try to convince state regulators that a new facility won’t “cannibalize” existing casinos.

Tough choices. But I think “pink slime” best captures the spirit of the year.

A spark of accusation, whipped by the swirling winds of social media and the breathless news cycle, grew into an inferno of overreaction. By the time we figured out that lean finely textured beef wasn’t exactly a pink plague on our plates, the saga was burned to a crisp. Politicians ranted and rumbled, the media, myself included, cracked wise, and the people most impacted, the workers who lost jobs, were barely heard above the din.

In the end, consumers were allowed to choose for themselves. But getting there was a real omnishambles. Now, of course, lawsuits.

So after a year that saw more fact-checkers than ever, and, yet, fewer facts, and when overdone was hardly rare, I serve you pink slime. You want fries with that?

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