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The #Word of the Year: #Hashtag

The American Dialect Society has done it again.

On Friday, members and friends, meeting in Boston, chose the Word of the Year for 2012.

Imagine a crowd of more than 250 linguists and friends, standing-room only, in a hotel ballroom.

Members of the American Dialect Society and the Linguistic Society of America, and friends.

Three screens to show voting results.

List of nominees in eight categories distributed to the audience. Four nominees for each category:

Most Useful, Most Creative, Most Unnecessary, Most Outrageous, Most Euphemistic, Most Likely to Succeed, Least Likely to Succeed, Election Words.

Not so important which one goes in which category. Designed to ensure review of last year’s words before final vote on WOTY.

Serious, but fun. Short speeches allowed for or against candidates. Vote is by show of hands, majority required. Happy crowd.

First vote: Most Useful.

Runoff between YOLO (You Only Live Once) and –(po)calypse, (ma)geddon, combining forms for catastrophes. Catastrophes win.

Most Creative: gate lice, for airline passengers who crowd around a gate waiting to board.

Most Unnecessary and Most Outrageous: legitimate rape, the type that Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin claimed rarely results in pregnancy.

Most Euphemistic: self-deportation, the policy of encouraging illegal immigrants to return voluntarily to their home countries.

Most Likely to Succeed: marriage equality, the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

Least Likely to Succeed: tie between phablet, electronic device sized between smartphone and tablet, and YOLO.

Election Words from 2012: binders full of women remark by Mitt Romney.

Now the big moment: which one should be Word of the Year 2012? (Most significant or signifying, like Time’s Person of the Year.)

Candidates nominated from the floor: YOLO, fiscal cliff, #hashtag, Gangnam style, marriage equality, 47% (the latter another Romney remark).

#Hashtag deserves to win because its use in Twitter has changed the way we think about things, making us categorize them, one audience member argues.

First round of voting: #hashtag and marriage equality get the most votes. Runoff needed.

Audience reminded that reception follows voting, courtesy of the American Dialect Society. Reception is ready. Crowd is happy.

Then the final vote: #hashtag 118, marriage equality 99.

Word of the year 2012: #hashtag.

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