Word

Kristi Harrison: Occupy

According to a media group that gets into these sorts of things, "occupy" was the most-used word of 2011. Not "octopi," which really explained a lot once I thought about it.


Yes, I know this joke is 2 months old. SHUT UP.

"Occupy" has had nothing but negative, militaristic connotations since colonial days. It's what you do when you take over a hostile territory militarily. You know, with guns and marching and free bubble gum for children and stuff. So it's an odd choice of word from people who are more or less camping out. I guess "Squat Wall Street" didn't have the same ring.

Not to disparage what the 99 percent are doing. I get it, kind of. There's been a helplessness in the air, and this is an understandable attempt to get a little control. They've commandeered a word that usually belongs to aggressors, even if they themselves are claiming to be victims. It's like when you're a kid and you're getting bullied but you tell everyone that you're the one doing the bullying -- except not really, because that never happens. Crazy, right?


Crazy like childhood depression!

And then the word became a joke. "Occupy Everything," "Occupy Mordor," "Occupy Couch." You can't drink a cup of mocha without telling it to occupy your belly or have sex without telling someone to occupy your vagina. It's a cliche now. Which is worrisome. We're staring in the face of what could be the most culturally significant movement since anti-Vietnam days, and we've turned their watchword into a joke. What a perfect way to end 2011.

But maybe that's just the way it's always been. No one took the hippies seriously, either. And now they're the ones we're "occupying" against.


It's like the circle of life. Which probably means we should be eating hippies, or something.

Robert Brockway: Bro

2011 was the year "bro" woke up under the Ping-Pong table, stumbled into the kitchen, threw up in the sink, grabbed a breakfast brew, slipped on some 'flops and shuffled bleary-eyed to the front porch only to discover that it had been crowned king sometime in its drunken stupor, and now all the peasants were waiting on the lawn to swear their fealty.

Getty
It's not just a term for people who take Beer Pong seriously anymore.

Somehow "bro" went from a chief identifier of frat boys to netspeak, and it did so almost instantly. One day you could play Date Rapist Marco Polo at any party and shout, "What's up, bro?" into a crowd, knowing that anybody who answered back could legally be detained for semen samples. And the next day Reddit powerusers have more "bros" in their submission history than Pi Kappa Gamma's in-house dominatrix.

Reddit

I'm not sure exactly why this sudden adoption took place (though I suspect it's meme-related). But regardless of why, 2011 has been all about this kind of bullshit: co-opting things that should be shunned, idolizing people who should be institutionalized and proudly saying things that should get your mouth scrubbed out with old bong Jaeger.

Jack O'Brien: Wake

Getty

We lived this year in the wake of other years. Big stories with decade-long arcs came to a close. Things we'd been wondering about for decades finally shook out in the wash. The chickens came home to roost because the economy was tanking and they couldn't find a job to support themselves.

Steve Jobs, the guy who spent the last decade creating the next big thing, died of a terminal illness he'd been battling for years, but his death felt sudden. The technology blogs and consumers who had come to expect him to change their lives every couple years were forced to pull focus on how recently we were walking around with Discmans.

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No man in history has had more of an impact on the way we masturbate.

The generation that grew up never knowing a world without iPods had a big year, as they were forced to face the end of Harry Potter and the third-act climax of the 9/11 story that had defined their generation more than most of us had realized. The wake they threw for bin Laden on the night he was assassinated was one of the more surprising events of the year. It was the first time those of us who were adults in 2001 realized how weird it would have been to have September 11 be a seminal experience.

With most people learning of his death on Twitter, every one of us was asked to participate in the story -- write our own eulogies. Some of us even succeeded.

Others not so much.

The speed with which we began creating conspiracy theories in the wake of the bin Laden announcement was remarkable. This was the year that the wake of old news stories was still echoing through our culture, while the wake created by new stories was disintegrating faster than ever.

Soren Bowie: Rapture

This year, the purest of heart were scheduled to ascend into heaven, and everyone else was supposed to be consumed in eternal fire. Twice. Christian radio host and holy number cruncher Harold Camping had solved God's greatest math problem by figuring out the date of the Rapture. God, Camping said, had tentatively penciled in humanity's reckoning for May 21 of 2011, and in case the date didn't work for everyone, then October 21 for sure. Both those dates came and went without any hint of an apocalypse, which was understandably embarrassing for Camping and his followers.


"I don't understand why no one's here. I even made tiny cakes."

What was most remarkable about the Rapture hype was not that Camping was wrong, it was the worldwide attention he received in the first place for predicting something so inherently ridiculous.

Leading up to May 21, the second leading search in Google was "end of the world may 21st." Hundreds of people quit their jobs and took to the streets preaching the word of the Lord before it was too late, and even internationally people gathered by the thousands to wait for Christ's arrival, and perhaps, if they were lucky, get an autograph.


His stuff was good, but his need to appeal to a wider audience really destroyed his career.

The word "rapture" became part of the everyday lexicon, even if it was almost exclusively used as a punch line. Still, everyone -- whether they believed it or not -- was keenly aware of the prediction of one Christian radio host, because each time we discussed it on the Internet, we inadvertently spread awareness. If the 2011 revolution in Egypt was a testament to the possibilities of social media to share information and mobilize people behind a cause, "the Rapture" was proof of how that power could be squandered on the asinine. We clumsily tried to wield the same weapon of uncensored and instant worldwide communication just months after the revolution, except we had nothing to say, and so instead we talked about the crazy old man in Texas who was predicting the end of the world.

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