In one of Steven Pinker's books, he mentions how little predictive power the language mavens have when it comes to which neologisms will catch on. These verbal dorks are too dazzled by each other's cleverness to see what there is a real demand for among the broad base of language users. In that respect, they're an awful lot like open source geeks who are more concerned with impressing each other than designing something that the average consumer wants.
So it comes as no surprise that the NYT's list of the buzzwords of 2009 is made up almost entirely of losers. I only recognized about 1/3 of them, and I don't imagine any will stick other than "netbook" and "Great Recession."
For a true example of a 2009 buzzword, and one that will probably be around for the next few years, there is "fml" -- short for "fuck my life," used mostly on young people's text messages, facebook status updates, etc., after some kind of bad news:
omg theres gonna be a sick rager tonight but my GAY mother won't let me have the car. fml
For those without college students on their friends list, Google Trends shows its explosion in popularity this year, and unlike most of those invisible buzzwords in the NYT list, it appears in Urban Dictionary, where thousands of people have voted on how appropriate the various definitions are. It's not listed, however, at the wordnik.com website run by the writer of the NYT list.
And while it's retarded to try to weave every cultural thread into the Great Recession narrative, you could easily tell a just-so story about how "fml" signals the especially tough times that young people are going through, with teenage unemployment at an all-time high of over 25%.
It's pretty well known that young people are the primary innovators of language -- not always for the better, of course -- so why do the language mavens focus so much on the dopey slang of inside-the-Beltway Boomers? Most so-called intellectual types are incredibly disdainful of the entrepreneurial spirit -- which is, like, too base for someone with an art history degree from Bowdoin -- so that they remain completely ignorant of the cultural churning all around them. Perhaps these lists of non-buzzwords are a status signal -- look at how out-of-touch and above-it-all I am. I'm not sure when our cultural elite became such flabby, hermetic fags, but you certainly wouldn't have seen that in Pepys' London or even as recently as the New York Beats.
This town needs an enema!