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Op-Ed: What if We Occupied Language?

When I flew out from the San Francisco airport last October, we crossed above the ports that Occupy Oakland helped shut down, and arrived in Germany to be met by traffic caused by Occupy Berlin protestors. But the movement has not only transformed public space, it has transformed the public discourse as well.

Occupy.

It is now nearly impossible to hear the word and not think of the Occupy movement.

Even as distinguished an expert as the lexicographer and columnist Ben Zimmer admitted as much this week: “occupy,” he said, is the odds-on favorite to be chosen as the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year.

[H. Samy Alim directs the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Language (CREAL) at Stanford University. His forthcoming book, “Articulate While Black: Barack Obama, Language, and Race in the U.S.,” written with Geneva Smitherman, examines the racial politics of the Obama presidency through a linguistic lens.]



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