And the Word(s) of the Year Are…

The word of the year, chosen by Oxford University Press to capture the ethos of 2011, is “squeezed middle.”

The word of the year, which is obviously a phrase of the year, is chosen each year by U.S. lexicographers. British wordsmiths choose their own word of the year for the dictionary. But for the first time ever, both American and British came up with the same expression.

The phrase “squeezed middle” is defined by the Oxford University Press as “the section of society regarded as particularly affected by inflation, wage freezes, and cuts in public spending during a time of economic difficulty, consisting principally of those people on low or middle incomes.”

While originally coined in Britain by the head of the Labour Party Ed Miliband, the phrase “squeezed middle” resonated with the American lexicographers as well.

Susie Dent, the spokesperson for the Oxford Dictionaries, said in an interview on the BBC that the term reflects global rather than just regional issues.  

“The speed with which ‘squeezed middle’ has taken root, and the likelihood of its endurance while anxieties deepen, made it a good global candidate for Word of the Year,” Dent said.

Other terms on this year’s  short list included headline worthy  terms such as “Arab spring” made popular by the Democratic movement in Arab countries; “99 percent” popularized through the Occupy Wall Street protests; and ”bunga bunga,” a term former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi brought to the public’s attention in describing his sex parties.