While the Oxford English Dictionary may be the “last word on words for over a century,” the definitive record for slang and vernacular is the popular online lexicon, UrbanDictionary.com. The website began 13 years ago, and has continued to provide users with definitions to the most popular words and phrases, including those of 2012.
Of the 100 terms most searched this year on UrbanDictionary.com, Aaron Peckham, the website’s founder, says approximately 80 have been consistently popular year after year. But 20 are newly fashionable in 2012. Words like, derp, yolo, brony and romnesia made the cut.
Test your knowledge by taking NewsHour’s quiz, and try to define 12 of this year’s most popular slang words and phrases, as selected by Urban Dictionary founder Aaron Peckham.
(Note: Some definitions from Urban Dictionary have been slightly altered to be public media-friendly and safe for work.)
Though many of these terms have been around for years, sometimes even hundreds of years. Yolo, an acronym for “you only live once,” for example, has references dating back to the 18th century. Versions of the phrase can be found in works such as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” The phrase became an “epidemic” when rapper Aubrey “Drake” Graham released his song “The Motto” featuring Lil Wayne in November 2011.
Interest in new words can be seen in Google Trends data, which visually show the rate at which a word was searched.
Here is how “yolo’s” popularity grew over time:
Its easy to see that yolo’s infectiousness is already waning and is unlikely to have a long shelf-life past 2012. Five years from now, people could be looking back on 2012 with nostalgia saying, “Remember when we used to say yolo?” the same way some may look back fondly on the 2007 craze, “wazzup!!!.”
But with 7,000,000 definitions already and 2,000 more submissions every day, according to Peckham, Urban Dictionary is sure to have a new set of idioms that will define the vernacular for 2013.