Every year is chock-full of words, and we have feelings about those words. We live with them, we love them, we let them roll around in our mouths, and we express them. We think about them and spit them out, vehemently, when we are angry. We grow tired of them, we dislike some on sight, and we drop them, eventually, and move on to hate others. Many times, we use the same words year after year, and sometimes, we rail on those words (see our continued excoriation of poor old moist. What did moist ever do to any of us?). There are words, phrases, and coinages that end up marking each year—some old, some new. There are the long-existing words that have shifted in meaning, or become popularized because of a public usage, like malarkey, as invoked by Joe Biden in his vice presidential debate with Paul Ryan in the fall. And there are the ones we create, like Romney shambles, or mans plain. Or maybe the coinage enters our consciousness because of a news story, event, or person (fiscal cliff, Kony). However we meet them, we use them in all sorts of ways, and there are also all sorts of ways in which we can dislike them: their sound, what they remind us of, what they make us think, their actual meaning, their overuse, their descent into meaninglessness, and so on.
But, look, the list that follows, comprising our year in worst words, isn't just about word-hating. There were also words and phrases and silly and serious expressions we loved! Fine, they're not on the list, but we'll briefly recognize a few of them here: Like, for instance, malarkey. Snor'eastercane (in name if not in deed). "Très Brooklyn," maybe it was très terrible, but it was fun, too, no? Oui! And under brag, a word with a special place in my heart, even if it did arise on these very pages, which may make this statement an unfortunate brag-brag (I promise, I wrote it while covered in Doritos crumbs after a brutal night at a holiday party).
Of course, you may hate any and all of those words and others; that is your prerogative. But agree with me on this: There is no better way for a semantic-minded person to remember the year than with a list of the words we used and saw and heard, those words we'd just as soon never write or see or hear spoken again.
Note: We mean no offense to these words, even when we call them despicable. One woman's worst word might be another's best. Bad words are a matter of opinion, and each is entitled to his own. And sometimes by hating a word, you—strangely—grow to love it. Here, with the help of some friends, is our semantic walk through 2012.