Language is an ever-evolving and living thing; a social construct plucked from the minds of millions, with each hand that touches it shaping it in some small but ineffable way. And like all living things, it must, eventually, give way to the natural order of things, and do as we all are destined to do: Crap its pants, and then die.
As it happens, said ignominious death occurred, for the English language, just a few short hours ago today, when the American Dialect Society—a collection of “linguists, lexicographers, etymologists, grammarians, historians, researchers, writers, authors, editors, professors, university students, and independent scholars”—decided to throw their combined academic acumen behind naming “-ussy” the 2022 Word Of The Year.
In other news, we’re in hell now, and will be for the foreseeable future.
For those of you who’ve blessedly dodged the -ussy bullet so far, a) sorry, and b) it is, as you might imagine, a slang suffix based off the word “pussy.” We’ll throw further explanatory duties over to a Vulture article quoted in the official ADS press release today—although before we do so, we feel like we should warn you that you’re only seconds away from reading the word “pizzussy,” and thus having your life irrevocably changed. (Sorry, again.)
Here’s the explanatory quote, from a Bethy Squires piece that asked linguists about the trend: “Riffing off ‘bussy’ (a portmanteau of ‘boy’ and ‘pussy’), now everything is a cat or a cavity. A calzone is a pizzussy. A wine bottle has a winussy.” Meanwhile, there’s also a 2018 academic paper cited, with the innocuous title “A corpus study of phonological factors in novel English blends.” And, seriously: this next sentence, in the little quote box? It’s going to be pretty rough.
In this paper, I present another such class of words from a recent language game, pussy blends (e.g., (Margaret) Thatcher + pussy > thatchussy)
Take a bow, linguistic researcher Michael Dow.
The ADS, which has been naming words of the year since the early 1990s, but which has been around as an organization for more than a century, has a long history of embracing modern trends in language. (Among other things, the release today notes all the ways that the rise of TikTok culture has encouraged more blending and percolation of language.) In the past, the Society has named words like “chad,” “dumpster fire,” “fake news,” and other topical additions to the lexicon as Words Of various Years.
And, hey: At least, in looking at the full voting results, we can take comfort that “Dark Brandon” (which got 19 votes) or “quiet quitting” (32 votes) didn’t score the win, leaving our collective language with at least a tiny shred of its minimal remaining dignity.