Dec 7, 2011

Geoff Nunberg's Word of the Year is "Occupy", on NPR's Fresh Air

From Fresh Air from WHYY, on National Public Radio

'Occupy': Geoff Nunberg's 2011 Word Of The Year

By Geoff Nunberg

If the word of the year is supposed to be an item that has actually shaped the perception of important events, I can't see going with anything but occupy. It was a late entry, but since mid-September it has gone viral and global. Just scan the thousands of hash tags and Facebook pages that begin with the word: Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Slovakia. Occupy Saskatoon, Sesame Street, the Constitution. Occupy the hood.

The word itself can take credit for a lot of its success — this isn't an item like "debt ceiling," that just happened to be hitched to a big story. But give props to the magic of metonymy, too. That's the figure of speech that lets us use names like Wall Street, Hollywood or Seventh Avenue to refer to the things that go on there.

... But it has already altered the political language with that slogan "We are the 99 percent." Economists have been talking about the top one percent for a long time, but it has suddenly become part of our national table talk. It's the most specific term for class in American public life since the late 19th century, when social reformers warned about the undue power and influence of what they called "the upper tenth."...

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Last updated:

October 4, 2016