“Compfusion” and other words voted “Least Likely to Succeed”

Every year, the American Dialect Society holds a nationwide poll asking users to put forward words that they think deserve the title “Word of the Year.” The evolution of the winners since the contest first started in 1998 reveals a great deal about our society and our changing values. (Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness” won the top spot in 2005, but techie terms like “hashtag” and “app” became more popular in later years —just FYI) What I find more interesting than the “Most Likely to Succeed” words, though, are the “Least Likely to Succeed” words —the slang words that were so odd, people thought they would die out. While I agree with some of the picks (kablokeys, a made-up filler word similar to bejeezus, earned a spot on the list for 2000), some of them certainly did not deserve to be blacklisted from our vocabularies so soon. Here are my personal favorites:

1) Compfusion (n.): confusion over computers (1998)

Apparently, technology was the villain even before the year 2000 threatened to turn computers into apocalypse harbingers. (That’s what everyone was nervous about, right?) Compfusion is a portmanteau of “confusion” and “computers” and it’s the exact reason why your grandma is not allowed to use your computer. “What does this red button do? Why is there a screen here? What is a ‘tab’? Isn’t that a cat? Michael, I’m compfused.”

2) Birdosaur (n.): a flying dinosaur (1999)

Birdosaur: for when you’re not feeling up to spelling “pterodactyl.” This term came out in 1999, two years after the release of The Lost World, and I’m now very disappointed that it wasn’t included in the third film. “Are these…birdosaur eggs?” A missed opportunity for comedic relief, I say.

3) Tomacco (n.): a hybrid of tomato and tobacco, which happens to be poisonous (2003)

Not only was 1999 the year of the birdosaur (see, it has a nice ring to it!), but it was also the year The Simpsons introduced the term “tomacco” to the world. In the 11th season episode “E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt),” Homer and his family take a vacation to the farm where he grew up. While there, he concocts a new plant, tomacco, and begins selling it for profit. Why did it take four years for the word to catch on? Beets me. (This joke would have been funnier if Homer has also invented beets.)

4) Holy toast (n.): a grilled cheese with the image of the Virgin Mary, sold on eBay (2004)

In November of 2004, a Florida woman put a piece of toast on eBay, claiming it bore the image of the Virgin Mary. The toast’s popularity spawned dozens of news posts and has since been the inspiration for many spoof sketches. Orange Is the New Black even recently featured a similar story when Leanne discovers a piece of toast with burn marks that look like Norma. If only the inmates had Internet access: their special breakfast discovery could have made them rich.

5) Pope-squatting (v.): registering a domain name that is the same of a new pope before the pope chooses his new name in order to profit from it (2005)

Pope-squatting is a little like starting a lottery with your coworkers to guess your friend’s new baby name, but way more exciting. It’s an art, really.

6) Billary: Bill and Hillary Clinton (2007)

Forget Brangelina. Billary is where it’s at. When rumors of Hillary’s candidacy started floating around in 2007, so did this celebrity couple name. Now that she’s running again, we have another chance to make this popular! Let’s hear it for Billary!

7) Sea kittens (n.): fish (2009)

Apparently, in an attempt to save some fish, PETA started a campaign in 2009 that encouraged people to rename fish “sea kittens” (I’m serious) so they would be “too cute to kill.” I “aww’ed” at the name sea kittens when I first saw it and now I’m majorly regretting it.

8) Skyaking (v.): jumping out of a plane in a kayak (2010)

“What if we could like, kayak, but in the air?” This is the question that I’m assuming gave birth to this new extreme sport in 2010, which literally involves jumping out of a plane in a kayak. I’m anxiously awaiting the next step, which I’m guessing involves jumping out of an airplane in a smaller airplane.

9) Birthmas (n.): a simultaneous celebration of a birthday and Christmas (2013)

Chrismukkah, but for those unfortunate souls with December birthdays who are forced to accept “slash” gifts, as in, here’s your birthday-slash-Christmas present!

10) Normcore (n.): “anti-fashion” trend of adopting an intentionally ordinary, inexpensive personal style from cheap off-the-shelf brands (2014)

“Who am I wearing? Well, these jeans are the work of the well-known designer, Old Navy. Maybe you’ve heard of him?”

Three cheers for these underdogs! Check out more “least likely to succeed” words on ADS’s website.

Featured image via Giphy.

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