“I Can’t Shut Up About“: Deep dives into my online obsession of the week.
When the Oxford English Dictionary named “goblin mode” as its 2022 Word of the Year, there was confusion. There was outrage. There was criticism for it being two words instead of one. Then, when it came time for the American Dialect Society to select its word of the year, over 200 linguists, lexicographers, grammarians, and other language scholars collectively said, “Hold my dictionussy.”
As stated in an official press release, the American Dialect Society’s official word of 2022 is -ussy. If this is your first time hearing the suffix, it means exactly what you think it does. Derived from bussy, a portmanteau of boy and pussy, -ussy has made its way from queer vernacular to more mainstream internet vocabulary and, now, to one of the foremost lexicographic associations. “The selection of the suffix -ussy highlights how creativity in new word formation has been embraced online in venues like TikTok,” ADS chair and Wall Street Journal language columnist Ben Zimmer said in the release. “The playful suffix builds off the word pussy to generate new slang terms. The process has been so productive lately on social-media sites and elsewhere that it has been dubbed -ussification.” We are one step closer to Lil Nas X’s dream for a future in which bussy is added to the dictionary.
In the spirit of being life-long learners, let’s put the suffix in context (suffussy in contussy), shall we? For example, Princess Fiona from Shrek has an ogussy. As Bethy Squires explained for Vulture early last year, a calzone is a pizzussy and wine bottles have a winussy. You may recall the meme declaring the Babadook is “one thicc bih” and asking to “see that “babussy.” In an academic paper from the University of Montreal, linguist Michael Dow used a more political example: Thatchussy, the -ussification of Margaret Thatcher. Dow deemed this class of words “pussy blends,” a phrase that deserves its own place in historussy.
Despite what you might assume, the members of ADS clearly aren’t prudish academics. “I didn’t hear many objections to ‘-ussy’ on the grounds of vulgarity,” Zimmer told Rolling Stone. “After all, this is a selection made by descriptive linguists who aren’t trying to impose restrictions on how language should be.” Instead, Zimmer said the primary argument against -ussy was that it wasn’t widely known outside of online culture. (During the nomination session for ADS’s Word of the Year, -ussy was deemed a “dark horse.” A dark horussy, if you will.) Fortunately, it still triumphed over some of the less fun contenders for Word of the Year, which included “quiet quitting” and “Dark Brandon.”
Though -ussy claimed the throne to the overall Word of the Year, there are plenty of honorable mentions among the ADS’s subcategories. “Short king” made the shortlist for Most Creative Word of the Year. The Informal Word of the Year category was arguably the strongest batch, including the words/phrases like “it’s giving,” dickriding, the ick, menty b (as in “mental breakdown”), and rizz (as in “charisma”). “Leg booty,” defined as “algospeak substitution for LGBT,” was among the nominees for Euphemism of the Year, and the skull emoji was deemed the 2022 Emoji of the Year. It is criminal that these awards aren’t nationally televised like the Golden Globes. Imagine, Austin Butler putting his whole Elvussy into presenting the nominees for Digital Word of the Year, holding for applause as he announces “BFFR” and “touch grass.”
What does this all mean for you? I don’t know, babe. Use your imaginussy. Take this as an opportunity to expand your day-to-day vocabulary or, at the very least, mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable conversation in which you will have to explain -ussy to your parents.