Occupy Movements Making Their Mark on Language

Occupy movements here and abroad have had a big impact on language this year. Etymologists, both professional and amateur, are having a field day looking back at the terms and phrases that have taken hold in 2011. Many of the terms that they’re highlighting are related to the income disparity topic that has roiled citizens around the globe and driven them to protest.

The New York Times took a look yesterday at the terms “99 percent” and “one percent,” analyzing how they’ve made their way into political speeches, marketing, and everyday talk.

And this week, dictionary groups at Oxford University Press both here and in the U.K. declared “squeezed middle” the global word of the year.

The organization sources it as “British Labour Party leader Ed Miliband’s term for those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens while having the least with which to relieve it.”

Also on the list are “occupy” and “99 percent,” along with “clicktivism” (using social media for purposes of a cause) and “gamification” (using gaming ideas and techniques for other purposes, like marketing).

With the a new year and an election coming, there will be other terms that take hold in 2012, but it will be interesting to see how deeply these concepts about income inequality take root. If they don’t get pushed into the 2011 dustbin, these are terms that will figure into language and tone of discourse moving forward.