Sunday, January 15, 2017

Terminology – The ADS WOTY 2016

Copyright © Françoise Herrmann

At the 27th Annual Meeting of the American Dialect Society (ADS), on Jan 7, 2017, the term dumpster fire was voted WOTY (Word of the Year) 2016!

 The ADS defines dumpster fire as a metaphor for  “an exceedingly disastrous or chaotic situation”. The crowdsourced Urban Dictionary defines Dumpster fire as: 1. A complete disaster and, 2. Something very difficult that nobody wants to deal with”.

The term was selected by ADS linguists as best representing public discourse in 2016, with the term rising to prominence during the 2016 US presidential elections. 

Etymologically, the term “dumpster” arose as part of the tradename advertisement jingle Dempster-Dumpster, “applied to mechanically loaded refuse containers produced by the Dempster Brothers Company of Knoxville, Tennessee” in 1937! (Merriam-Webster).

Incidentally, Demspter Brothers, Inc., has 279 patents on record. The first Dempster Brothers Inc., patents were filed in 1941, and granted in Great Britain in 1942 (i.e.; GB547537 titled Transporting and dumping devices, GB547680 also titled Transporting and dumping devices, and GB549491 titled Transporting and dumping containers). 

The commercial success of the trash collection system then led to the inclusion of the term “dumpster” as a common and generic term in the dictionary.

In 2016, the term dumpster fire also flamed in social media as a pair of signifying emoji (imported below).

.Dumpster fire faced fierce competition in 2016, with such competing terms as the emoji fire icon alone, used as an all-purpose superlative; woke meaning socially aware or enlightened; and post-truth referring to “a time where facts matter less than beliefs and emotions”.(ADS)

ADS WOTY 2016 Press release
Locke, Ch. (01-10-17) How “dumpster fire” became 2016’s word of the year - WIRED 
The Urban Dictionary – Dumpster fire
Merriam-Webster - Dumspter

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