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What’s the Buzz? Buzzwords of 2009

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In Jesus Christ Superstar, a rock opera and movie from the 1970s, there’s a song called What’s the Buzz? In the song, the apostles (disciples, Jesus’ followers) ask Jesus the same question again and again:

What’s the buzz?
Tell me what’s a-happening!

They wanted to know what everybody was talking about.

Have you ever walked into a room full of people – perhaps at a party – and listened to the sound of all the conversations in the room? You can’t hear the words, but you can hear the buzz (activity, noise, excitement) of all the conversations.

Buzzwords are words that quickly become fashionable, or popular. They are words people use frequently, sometimes to impress other people. They show that you know what’s going on (what’s happening in the world around you).

Buzzwords don’t usually last (continue to be used) for a long time. In fact, we often get tired of hearing them and wish they would go away. On the other hand, buzzwords can tell us a lot about what people were talking about at a particular time, like last year.

Some buzzwords become a regular part of the language. Usually they begin as colloquial words or expressions – informal, everyday words that are used in casual conversation but not in formal speech or writing.

This morning several buzzwords from 2009 were in the news. One of them – unfriend – was named the word of the year by the people who publish the Oxford dictionary. Unfriend is a verb that means to remove someone as a “friend” on Facebook or some other social networking site.

Here are some other 2009 buzzwords that were considered (thought carefully about) for word of the year:

  • sexting – sending sexual messages or pictures by mobile telephone
  • birther – someone who believes that Barak Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. and, as a result, shouldn’t be president
  • netbook – a small, very portable laptop computer for going onto the Internet
  • death panel – a committee that decides which patients receive medical treatment or, supposedly (used when we aren’t sure), are left to die. Some people in the U.S. believe that death panels were included in the new health care program introduced by President Obama, but they weren’t.

If you want to see more 2009 buzzwords, look at the lists from The New York Times and Time Magazine. Another interesting list is the annual (yearly) list of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness. These are buzzwords that some people are tired of hearing and want to banish (tell people to stop using).

~Warren Ediger – a student of many things, but especially language, learning and teaching, and technology; mentor-teacher; musician; husband and father; and creator of successfulenglish.com.

Image by Wael Attili; used by permission.

10 Responses to “What’s the Buzz? Buzzwords of 2009”

  1. Bakhtyar basher Says:

    As International Relation’s specialist i consider -international securityand somart power doctrine for current USA foreign policy startegy , international human rights concerns and tools, as buzzwords , in my country we have alot of blazing publicities rise up and down in day to day life,by the way, it is my first time since i introduced this website to have a comment at the first rank or box, i am really happy to write down these sentences, i never banish writing in the blog, by your help i could make a difference to improve my English.

  2. Gini Says:

    I like the lists they are interesting to me. I don’t know them and some are strange. Nice to meet you Warren.

  3. emiliano Says:

    Please, let me call you Warren as you know by reading some of the Blog post that everybody here is Lucy, Jeff, and so on.

    Thank you very much for your presence and sure it would be a high contribution to the Jeff/Lucy´s Blog, and as we say here in Spain,…”para muestra sirve un botón” sorry but I don´t know how to say it in English, but more or less means that the first post is so clear and interesting that the future ones would be as good as this first.
    Here it is very common that the Buzzwords are used by the politicians and they repeat the same silly words or phrases once and again till we
    are boring of hearing them.
    Suddenly these words or phrases are so much used that they disapeared either because we laugh hearing them or because some new buzzwords
    replace the older.

    I have read above that you are a musician, please tell us something about this so interesting matter.
    To me as a music lover, “music” is one of the arts than join people all round the world.

    Thank you again Warren, you are very wellcome, and for sure that very soon I am going to search your pods and lessons.

  4. Peter Says:

    Thanks Jeff , they are interesting.

    The thing is , buzzwords are kind of fads .I mean they dissapear as they appeare.

    This trend is attributed to every language.it is not sth pecular to English

    However,it Is nice to know them cause some of them become a part of a rigonal culture.

    Thanks Jeff ; interesting sources

    good job man

  5. Daniele Says:

    Thank you for posting Mr.Warren.
    Your first post is very interesting . I am going to read the next coming for sure.
    I like reading. I always enjoy this blog.
    Thank you all.

    Daniele. Italy.

  6. adrian Says:

    Hi Warren!,

    First, I would like to say that: welcome! As you certain know, Esl-podcast is an amazing podcast and Jeff and Lucy are the best. Secondly, your post was perfect; very interesting and elucidative. In fact, I`ve just read (in your site) two articles that you wrote: English talk post 1 and 2. Thank you for those incredible and clear explanations about how we can learn english properly and effectively. I`ve just bought some Stephen Krashen`s book and I think I will learn a lot about the Krashen`s research.
    See you,
    Adrian

  7. Mir Says:

    Hello Warren,
    It is very nice to have you here as a guest of honor. I never forget how you graciously show me to improve my English language down the way. I need to say that I am so honored to know you. Please post us these fabulous articles. I hope you are fine and doing well.

    Best Regards,

    Your ever student and follower, Mir Shariat

  8. Tania Says:

    Hi ! Dear Warren , you are wellcome like our blogfriend and teacher . In IT field novelties appears every day . We should read IT magazines and anyway we are not able to understand them without IT training .
    I have opened an alphabetically notebook for the buzzwords and other phrases .
    And who knows ? Maybe we can hear together the angels on High …
    By the way , I consider your nice Christmas post a gift for all of us . We all were children . Thank you . Nice to meet you .

    See ya ,

    Tania

  9. dongsung Says:

    Nice to meet you Warren, as everyone mentioned, I welcome you too. That buzz words are mostly created by young generation in my country. The old generation like me having difficults to understand some buzz words. Thank you fosting your nice articl. and I’ve visited your website the day before yesterday. that is very valuable site for people who learnning English. thank you again!!

  10. Oscar Says:

    Welcome to ESL Podcast Mr. Ediger. I will be reading your blogs, and I will visit you web site very soon.