Angelica Florio
January 07, 2017 3:54 pm
Baloncici/Shutterstock

Do you remember when you were a kid and you and your friends had a funny inside joke but the minutes your parents started using that same joke it immediately became less funny? That has basically happened to all of us now because the American Dialect Society just pronounced “dumpster fire” 2016’s phrase of the year.

The ADS basically just pulled a Mean Girls: We’re not like regular lexicographers, we’re cool lexicographers.

The “word of the year”trend was initiated by the American Dialect Society, and adopted by other linguistic organizations like Dictionary.com, Oxford, and Mirriam-Webster. The other dictionaries chose less “slangy” terms, though equally indicative of the, erm, tumultuous year that 2016 was. Dictionary.com’s word of the year was “xenophobia,”Oxford’s choice was “post-truth,” and Mirriam-Webster chose “surreal.”

When you look at those three words together, “dumpster fire” really does seem to sum it up, huh?

According to Mother Jones, “dumpster fire” became a term used in sports commentary for when games went horrifically wrong. Some point to Colin Cowherd, sports commentator and host of “The Herd” with originally using the term. However, much like a dumpster fire itself, its source is difficult to pinpoint.

The meme-explainer, Know Your Meme, shows the Google Search Trends for ‘dumpster fire,’ revealing that the term took-off in late-2015, steadily rising and then skyrocketing through 2016 as the trend took off. The American Dialect Society isn’t the first official organization to try to get in on our little joke — in July, 2016 the Associated Press changed its treatment of  “dumpster” so it could be lowercase. (The term ‘Dumpster’ was originally uppercase as it was a trademark by its creator, George Dempster.)

Ben Zimmer, one of the sociolinguists who conducted the ADS’s vote, explained their decision by saying:

Although the reason for our widespread usage of the term is pessimistic, the term ‘dumpster fire’ actually reveals that people generally have a sense of humor, because you have to admit, it is a hilarious term. With that humor, we will find a way to make the most of the dumpster fire in which we find ourselves. Here’s hoping that the 2017 term is something like Miraculous Recovery or Infinite Cakes.

Advertisement