What's the word on the street?

OPINION

  • This alligator was found at O'Hare this year.
This alligator was found at O'Hare this year.
November 20, 2013|By Mick Swasko, @swasko | RedEye

2013 (year): Most recent increment of the Gregorian calendar in which the Oxford English Dictionary celebrated the word "selfie."

Yep, that happened. On Monday, the English dictionary chose, out of the tens of thousands of words it alphabetizes, spells right and defines, the word "selfie" as 2013's Word of the Year. If you're not a fan of the term that describes blurry, often duck-faced self-shots from camera phones, or an English major, try to squint through the tears and read on: "twerking" was a runner-up.

I'm no word snob. My Xbox Live profile references a "ROFLcopter" and I'm fluent in Internet, so "ermahgerd" is in my custom spellcheck dictionary and I start emails with "hai guise." But Oxford's proclamation of any term as a year's most iconic word seems, well, derpy. (Yes, Oxford also added derp this year, and it is infinitely better than "selfie.")

This is Chicago. "Freak," "cloud nine," "southpaw" and "yuppie" were all obscure terms before we started using them and inserted them into the vernacular. Selfie is bland and boring compared with the colorful linguistic creations we've cooked up just this year. In that spirit, it's time we chose Chicago's 2013 "Word of the Year," and these distinguished terms make the short list:

Ventrapocalypse (proper n.): Can be used as a substitute for "end of the world." It originates from the disastrous launch of a Chicago public transit fare system. (e.g. Mom had too much wine, burned the Thanksgiving turkey and the cat died from shock, but it's not the Ventrapocalypse.)

Divviot (n.): A bicycle share user with no regard for or knowledge of Chicago bike laws, regulations or etiquette. (e.g. Did you see that video of a Divvy bike on Lake Shore? What a Divviot.)

Hawkey (n.): A style of the Canadian sport hockey as played by the Chicago Blackhawks. (e.g. Hey, Kris Versteeg is back! He's going to have to learn how to play Hawkey again if we want to repeat.) See also: Hawkeytown.

Ghost train: (n.): A rail car that, despite having no conductor, trips several failsafes and escapes the yard it's kept in.

O'Halligator (proper n.): A reptilian creature found abandoned in Chicago's O'Hare Airport. When on the Blue Line to O'Hare, the term CTAlligator is acceptable.

Little Bike People (n.): A phrase coined by Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass that refers to Chicago cyclists as angry, small, cleat-wearing pedestrians. Antonym: "Big Motorist." This is the large suburban interest group responsible for lobbying against "Little Bike People" and fighting for the rights of motorists injured as a result of car-on-bike collisions.

Mick Swasko is a RedEye reporter. He gives a shout out to @LittleBirdBill, @AccidentIntent and @SnarkySerif for some of the suggestions.

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