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The twelve words of Christmas

Whether it's a heart-warming prospect or a source of concern, yet another Christmas is upon us. Therefore, in true Yuletide spirit, I thought it would be fun to provide readers with a festive take on word formation in 2010. Here then, taking inspiration from that well-known Christmas song, are my twelve words of Christmas …

For the first word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
An earsplitting vuvuzela

Anyone watching 'the beautiful game' in 2010 had to put up with an accompanying 'beautiful noise'. Love it or hate it, the South African vuvuzela became the emblem of this year's World Cup, causing the unlikely addition of a Zulu word to the vocabulary of English speakers across the globe.

'There was an odd mix of sounds currently invading my common room two nights ago. Amidst the usual Saturday night clamor of drunken singing and shouting, there was a new addition to the cacophony. The victorious and glorious Harvard-Yale night brought with its jubilation the vuvuzela to Cantabrigian streets.'

Harvard Crimson 22nd November 2010

For the second word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

Though vuvuzelas were compulsory kit for football fans in 2010, these noise-making devices didn't pervade the crowds at Wimbledon, and seemed unlikely to fit with the more genteel image of the All England Tennis Club. The invention of pineberries however, could represent a more serious threat to the club's traditional treat of strawberries and cream. If the players are wearing white, why not make the berries white too?

'Anyone for pineberries and cream? A strawberry that tastes like a pineapple goes on sale today. The fruit looks like a negative photograph of the common strawberry with white flesh and red pips.'

Mirror 31st March 2010

For the third word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
Three election worms
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

In May 2010 a worm wasn't just one of those slippery little creatures eaten by birds from freshly-turned soil, but a popularity indicator in the UK political arena. In a series of live televised debates running up to the UK's general election, viewers could watch the audience's approval of Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg rise to dizzy heights or take a nosedive, as three worm graphs in ubiquitous red, blue and yellow wiggled across the bottom of the screen.

'Watching the worms afterwards on Newsnight was more interesting than the debate. I was fascinated by the way the red worm just plodded along, flatlining, and slightly alarmed by the way the blue worm jerked upwards …'

Telegraph 16th April 2010

For the fourth word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
Four spot-fixing scandals
Three election worms
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

It just wasn't cricket at all when the sport became embroiled in allegations of spot-fixing. In August 2010, it was alleged that during the Pakistani team's tour of England, three players accepted spot-fixing bribes, briefed to deliberately underperform in the fourth test at Lords by bowling no-balls at specific points during the over.

'The Football Association is among a number of governing bodies considering strengthening their anti-corruption measures in the wake of the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing allegations.'

Telegraph 15th September 2010

For the fifth word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
An oilpocalypse
Four spot-fixing scandals
Three election worms
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

In April 2010 people the world over were aghast at images of an environmental catastrophe of epic proportions caused by an explosion at an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Considered to be the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, the BP oil disaster was dubbed the oilpocalypse, as its appalling trail of environmental devastation began to unfold.

'Oilpocalypse Now: WSJ reports BP oil disaster may be leaking at rate of 1 million gallons
a day …'

climateprogress.org 1st May 2010

For the sixth word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
Six pairs of jeggings
An oilpocalypse
Four spot-fixing scandals
Three election worms
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

People over a certain age who once enjoyed the comfort and fit of leggings might this year have been pleased to see their 21st century rebirth in the form of jeggings, close fitting, stretchy trousers with styling and fabric akin to denim jeans. Variations on the same theme include treggings, a cross between leggings and trousers, and a version for the boys dubbed meggings.

'Dozens of students were kicked out of class on the first day of term – for wearing jeggings.'

The Sun 9th September 2010

For the seventh word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
Seven days of glamping
Six pairs of jeggings
An oilpocalypse
Four spot-fixing scandals
Three election worms
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

A soggy sleeping bag on a lumpy carry mat? Baked beans and sausages? Brushing your teeth in a crowded toilet block? Oh, no, this is the 21st century and camping has become glamping. Out with nature and in with pamper, as the activity of 'sleeping under the stars' is accompanied by every home comfort and more – from quilts and cushions to high-tech cooking gear.

'If you want cheap family vacation ideas, camping is always an affordable option … For those who would like the trip to be a bit cushier, try glamping.'

AOL Travel News 10th November 2010

For the eighth word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
Eight followers following
Seven days of glamping
Six pairs of jeggings
An oilpocalypse
Four spot-fixing scandals
Three election worms
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

In a year in which the concept of social media definitely went mainstream, rather than remaining the preserve of the young or computer-literate, a new sense of the word follow (and its opposite unfollow) further embedded itself. TV presenters can now be regularly heard promoting broadcasts and related media by uttering words such as 'follow us on Twitter …' where follow means subscribing to online messaging in relation to a particular person or topic.

'"We hope football fans will follow us on Twitter to get the latest on the best parties and up-to-the-second news on the teams, the game and the fans," said Sun editor-in-chief Jose Rodriguez.'

Edmonton Sun 23rd November 2010

For the ninth word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
Nine nonliners surfing
Eight followers following
Seven days of glamping
Six pairs of jeggings
An oilpocalypse
Four spot-fixing scandals
Three election worms
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

Access to the World Wide Web is today such a fundamental tool of everyday life that there are now a growing number of campaigns aimed at getting everyone connected. The BBC's high profile 'First Click' campaign was one such initiative this year, whose target audience was those who have never had access to the Internet – a proportion of the population collectively described as nonliners.

'Concern about internet nonliners in Hampshire … Despite the south east having the highest internet usage in the UK outside London, there is concern about those still not online.'

BBC News 7th October 2010

For the tenth word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
Ten memes a-spreading
Nine nonliners surfing
Eight followers following
Seven days of glamping
Six pairs of jeggings
An oilpocalypse
Four spot-fixing scandals
Three election worms
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

The idea of an 'inside joke' has been taken to a whole new level with the concept of the Internet meme. Whether it's a catchphrase, a joke, a rumour or a picture of a cute little piglet wearing wellington boots, a meme is something that spreads like wildfire, courtesy of the web, a kind of online version of a Chinese whisper, with a potentially limitless number of participants.

'Dr Gunders said memes were infectious ideas, such as fire and internet crazes like LOLcats, which spread through imitation.'

South-West News, Australia 24th November 2010

For the eleventh word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
Eleven dumbphones ringing
Ten memes a-spreading
Nine nonliners surfing
Eight followers following
Seven days of glamping
Six pairs of jeggings
An oilpocalypse
Four spot-fixing scandals
Three election worms
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

There was a time when mobile phones were just, well, phones. However, in a world dominated by mobile communication and the technology surrounding it, we have seen the evolution of the smartphone, giving us e-mail, Internet access, in fact a hand-held computer which happens to be able to make phone calls. But for those of us who are still content to use a phone for actually speaking to people or sending the odd text message, there remains the good old dumbphone, a mobile which hasn't been embellished with all those extra bells and whistles.

'As an owner of a dumbphone, I feel I'm constantly falling behind my friends who can pull restaurant menus and bus schedules out of thin air.'

New York Times (blog) 18th November 2010

For the twelfth word of Christmas my true love gave to me …
Twelve tweets a-tweeting
Eleven dumbphones ringing
Ten memes a-spreading
Nine nonliners surfing
Eight followers following
Seven days of glamping
Six pairs of jeggings
An oilpocalypse
Four spot-fixing scandals
Three election worms
Two pineberries
And an earsplitting vuvuzela

No romp through the word formation highlights of 2010 could be complete without at least some reference to the tweet, that 140-character-or-less snippet of text which has taken the world by storm. Whether it's the rescue of 33 Chilean miners or Kate Middleton's engagement ring, it seems that there aren't many things that happen these days which, at some time, by someone, aren't worthy of a tweet or two …

'The Queen sent her engagement congratulations to Royal sweethearts Wills and Kate … Shortly after Clarence House announced the news a tweet appeared on the monarchy's social networking site from Her Majesty and Prince Philip.'

The Sun 16th November 2010

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

Last week …

Read last week's BuzzWord. Sofalizing.

This article was first published on 20th December 2010.

Open Dictionary

flat design

a type of design used on the web which excludes features which give a three-dimensional effect … and uses simple styles

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slay

to kill someone in a violent way