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New Words

New words: the official* glossary of 2011

*Not really. But these are the words that we never used (or understood the meaning of) before 2011.

IT’S OFFICIAL, THE most words and phrases during 2011 were ‘Occupy’ and ‘Arab Spring’.

According to the Global Language Monitor, over the past 12 months the world’s 1.58 billion English speakers were mostly talking about the occupation of Iraq and the pre-eminence of the anti-capitalist movement, as well as the Middle East unrest.

But plenty of other words have made it into our vocabulary this year – some brand new and others we just had never used (or heard of) before.

Remember the vevuzela from 2010 or the staycation of 2009 fame? Well, here is‘s glossary of 2011:

Buzzwords of the economic crisis

We’ve all become well-versed in the language of the eurozone debt crisis but here’s a refresher course:

Contagion – Economic problems are spreading and it’s a real issue for Ireland and other peripheral countries of the EU (more on those later).

Firewall – To protect from the contagion (above).

Upskilling – The Irish Government wants unemployed people to undergo training so they can get back into the workforce.

Feel the pain - We must all take a hit in order to get Ireland’s finances back on a sustainable path.

Troika – Also known as Ireland’s International Partners – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF.

Everything is on the table - Unfortunately, the Irish Government has used this phrase in relation to the budgets for the next four years and not tonight’s dinner.

Front-loaded – Get your minds out of the gutter. The phrase has become popular when finance ministers talk about how much budget deficits will be cut this year and how much can wait until further on down the line.

Haircut - Most relevant to Greece and NAMA as creditors and bondholders see their payments dwindle as discounts are enforced.

Unity government – An unelected government created in the “national interest”, as seen in Greece and Italy.

Debt pile – See also mountain of debt, unsustainable levels of sovereign debt, Irish/Greek/Italian national debt.

The 1 per cent – The Occupy Movement across the world slates the richest men and women of the world for the disparity created between the top 1 per cent and the Other 99.

PIGS countries – Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain are grouped together as the peripheral (and troublesome) nations of the eurozone.

EFSF – The European Financial Stability Fund. Which brings us to another key word of the debt crisis…

Leveraging - The leveraging of the EFSF will mean its lending power will be greater in case any more eurozone nations need financial assistance.

Volatility – Currencies, markets, commodities – it applied to them all throughout the year.

Austerity - was the official word of 2010 but it hasn’t gone away.

#Aras11 and #GE11

If you played our Bingo games, you’ll know that there were some popular phrases used during this year’s election campaigns.

Five-point plan – How Fine Gael won the election.

Super junior minister – Sounds cool, doesn’t it?

In bed with the bankers – See also cronyism.

People’s president - The Irish people decided that would be Michael D. Higgins then. Also the Poet-President.

True independent - Take your pick from Seán Gallagher, Mary Davis, Rosemary Scallon and David Norris or Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, Mick Wallace, Seamus Ross and Stephen Donnelly.

Global Irish – Formerly known as the diaspora.

Burke Tapes – Journalist Helen Lucy Burke first released details – and later the actual recordings – of an interview she conducted with David Norris in 2002 in which he expressed controversial views on paedophilia.

Clemency lettersNorris wrote them for his former partner Ezra Nawi, while Gay Mitchell issued them on behalf of a US death row prisoner Paul Hill.

Active candidate - He’s running, he’s not, he’s in, he’s out: David Norris’s camp eventually called the Senator an “active candidate” in the 2011 Race for the Áras.

Tempered Steel – how David Norris described himself to Pat Kenny: “I have been through the fire. I am tempered steel.”

New Era – re: Fianna Fáil.

Constitution – We all hold it dear (especially Articles 13 and 26).

Ireland abroad – Rebuilding our reputation was a key concern for our politicians and presidential candidates this year.

Abhor – The word was used by the candidates to distance themselves from controversy. David Norris was clear that he abhors the sexual abuse of children, while Seán Gallagher abhorred many of the decisions of the last government as he let go of his Fianna Fáil roots. Later in the year, Mayor of Naas Darren Scully said he abhors racism.

Harangue - There was plenty of haranguing done throughout the year on the political scene, particularly during the #GE11 and #Aras11 debates.


Arab Spring - the political movement that started in Tunisia and has brought on the greatest period of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

Tahrir Square - the site of the revolution in Egypt was an inspiration for its neigbouring countries.

Occupy – Be it Wall Street, Dame Street or LSX, the Occupy movements have aimed to fight against the “corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations”. Agree with them or not, they’ve got us talking.

Hactivists – After attacking websites belonging to the Tunisian and Egyptian governments, Anonymous ironically became the most well-known group.

Fracking – The controversial drilling technique that just got even more controversial this year. Here’s a lengthier explainer.


Phone hacking – The phrase itself is self-explanatory but who knew we would be using it so much in 2011?

The Superinjunction – Invented some more He Who Must Not be Named characters.


The Cloud – It’s a virtual place to store all our digital stuff.

Google+ – The search engine’s latest foray in to the social networking world.

4S (iPhone) – Apple’s newest new iPhone.

Groupon – How many coupons have you bought this year?

Siri – (S)he has the answers to life’s most important questions.

Tablet - The new smartphone (that’s not a phone). You know what we mean, we’ll all have them (or want them) soon.

Fun and frivolity

Planking – The internet meme that sees people lie rigid on any suitable structure became popular this year (see also stocking, owling, horsemanning, leisure diving).

Bunga bunga – It was never a secret that former Italian Prime Minister and billionaire Silvio Berlusconi liked to party and enjoyed the company of women but it is unlikely that the media mogul will ever rid himself of the “bunga bunga” phrase used to describe his lavish get-togethers.

Royal Wedding – Not since 1989 have those two words evoked so much excitement in men, women and children across the globe.

Pippa - And speaking of the Royal Wedding, although it was Kate and William’s day, Pippa Middleton became a household name following the ceremony.

Cat is in the sack – Well done to the Boys in Green who didn’t “jump the gun” and still managed to “have the cat in the sack”, qualifying for Euro 2012. Thanks to the ever-brilliant Giovanni Trapattoni for that gem.

Jedhead – The Dublin twins shot to fame in 2009 (2009!) and their popularity seems to know no boundaries. Earlier this year, their interesting hairstyles were copied by the nation ahead of the Eurovision.

Azerbaijan – Remember the country that actually won the Eurovision this year, beating out Ireland’s entry Jedward. “Where is Azerbaijan?” was a popular Google search during May.

Dwarf-throwing – As made famous by the English rugby team (and not the Irish rugby team).

See yiz in CoppersBryan Cullen, take a bow.

Ryan Gosling – He was EVERYWHERE in 2011. Fact.

If you think we have left out any important words of 2011, let us know in the comments section.

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