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The American Dialect Society's pick for 2016 Word of the Year

On this week's edition of That's What They Say, English professor Anne Curzan joined us from Austin, Texas, where she was attending the American Dialect Society's annual meeting.  

Each year, the ADS gathers to choose a word that best represents "the public discourse and preoccupations of the past year."

This year's candidates included "woke", "post-truth" and "normalize." But the ADS decided it couldn't pick just one word to represent 2016, so the winner ended up being a compound.

A burning, smelly compound.

Yep, the word of the year for 2016 is "dumpster fire."

In case you're unaware, a "dumpster fire" refers to an "exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation." Curzan says she saw it pop up quite a bit in news articles from the end of the year.

"People were saying things like, '2016 was, simply put, a dumpster fire.' People were talking about the many wonderful people who died, this election we went through, Brexit, Syria, all these things that were happening in 2016," Curzan said.

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"Dumpster fire" was just one of this year's picks. To hear about the winners for other categories including slang word of the year, WTF word of the year and most creative word of the year, listen to the full conversation above.

Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
Rebecca Kruth is the host of All Things Considered at Michigan Radio. She also co-hosts Michigan Radio’s weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
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