Zhuzh up the sofa, honey, it's the year of the manscaped, flexitarian ass hat

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It was the year that "text" became established as a verb, "embed" became a noun, and the state of California was taken over by a man variously referred to as the "governator" or the "gropenfuhrer".

It was the year that "text" became established as a verb, "embed" became a noun, and the state of California was taken over by a man variously referred to as the "governator" or the "gropenfuhrer".

Such are the linguistic trends picked up by the American Dialect Society in its annual list of new words and usages. Unsurprisingly, it noted an abundance of terminology related to the conflict in Iraq and the political battles that raged around it.

The Bush administration coined the gloriously euphemistic "pre-emptive self-defence" to justify unprovoked, unilateral military strikes,. Last year also produced apt usages for the suffix "lite", including "torture lite" - to define US treatment of al-Qa'ida suspects stopping short of actual physical harm; and "Bush lite" - for moderate Democrats hoping to win the presidential election nomination. And it also conjured up new variations on free trade themes - not only did "offshoring", another term for moving jobs and businesses overseas, gain more currency, but so did "rightshoring", moving the jobs back to the US, and "nearshoring", moving them to Canada.

But the society's top word of the year was "metrosexual" (in fact, first used in an article for this newspaper way back in 1994), defined variously as "a fashion-conscious heterosexual" or someone "who has clearly taken himself as his own love object". Other intriguing words included "manscaping", to describe the shaving habits of men who prefer to be without body hair, and "zhuzh", meaning to fluff up, or primp ("I zhuzhed my cushions to make the place cosy for Brad").

Food-related neologisms included "flexitarian", to denote a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat, and "freegan", meaning someone who will eat anything as long as it is free.

The society, based at Duke University in North Carolina, compiles its list by voting on suggestions from its members. It is an indicator of how fast language moves that some of last year's will already seem old hat, such as "weapons of mass destruction", "google", "blog" and "regime change". But who now remembers "Iraqnophobia", or "sausage fest", a term to describe a party with more men than women?

Winning words

ass hat: a thoughtless or stupid person

Bennifer: the couple of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, now sadly redundant

cliterati: feminist writers or opinion-leaders. Winner in the "most outrageous" category, the word or phrase most likely to cause complaint

Collyer: in New York City, a person trapped under their own collected debris in their apartment. Winner "best revival" category

extraordinary rendition: deportation to a country that will receive a person unkindly, such as with torture

freedom: replacing "French" in phrases or compound nouns such as French fries, French kiss and French tickler. Winner "most unnecessary" category

tomacco: a hybrid of tomato and tobacco, which happens to be poisonous. Winner "least likely to be here next year" category

population reduction: a combat assignment

tanorexia: the condition of being addicted to tanning

tofurkey: a lookalike faux turkey crafted from tofu

transfer tube: a body bag

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