A 2013 dictionary (abridged)
From the Marathon attack to the Obamacare Web debacle, the year’s events left their mark on our language.
(Illustrations by Richard Lillash.)
An expression of solidarity that emerged after the Boston Marathon bombing quickly morphed into a general display of local pride. Apparently coined by two Emerson College students who sold T-shirts bearing the slogan to raise money for bombing victims, “Boston strong” has since been used to sell everything from World Series Championship coins to Christmas tree ornaments to plastic bags of “Fenway Dirt” on eBay. Just as the anti-littering campaign “Don’t Mess with Texas” became so subsumed into the broader culture that people forgot its original meaning, “Boston strong” no longer refers only to the resilience of Marathon victims. Instead, it became a celebration of the city itself.
In the real world, he was a damaged politician seeking forgiveness. In the virtual world, he was someone else — Carlos Danger — trying to woo women with shots of his naked self. Anthony Weiner’s was at once the strangest political sex scandal and the most ordinary. It belonged in a year when privacy and exposure were at war, and digital communications were the weapons of choice. But that doesn’t explain why he chose to seek redemption while repeating his offense. Weiner should have heeded the advice embedded in his screen name. That he did not illustrates just how disorienting a matrix the new media of 2013 proved to be.
PETER S. CANELLOS
It went everywhere with him and was often more eloquent than the neophyte candidate who wore it. “I am strong. I am brave. I am disciplined,” was the message sent by the olive green jacket favored by ex-Navy SEAL Gabriel E. Gomez, the GOP nominee for Senate in this year’s special election. His flight jacket was as ubiquitous as the barn coat worn by fellow Republican Scott Brown a few years before. But it wasn’t as effective with voters. While Brown lived up to the regular-guy image suggested by his garb, the flight jacket set a higher standard — one that Gomez, who campaigned on generalities and stumbled in debates, couldn’t quite meet. The Gomez mission failed once voters saw the gap between image and reality.
The papacy is the oldest continuously functioning institution in history, but it can still surprise. When Benedict XVI resigned on Feb. 28, he became the first living ex-pope in nearly six centuries. Never before had a pontiff relinquished the Fisherman’s Ring for reasons of health. Benedict’s decision to do so contrasted vividly with his predecessor’s long and painful decline.
But that was just the beginning of the year’s papal surprises. When white smoke rose above the Sistine Chapel on March 13, the Catholic Church had, in Jorge Mario Bergoglio, its first pope from Latin America, its first Jesuit — and the first to choose the name Francis. The symbolism was unmistakable: The new pontiff was evoking one of the most beloved Christian saints, the humble and loving Francis of Assisi. At that moment, Pope Francis telegraphed the shift in style — less grandeur and pride and dogma, more modesty and compassion and outreach — that quickly became his hallmark, and the talk of the world.
The MOST famous image from this year’s Red Sox World Series run came on the thrilling, score-tying grand slam home run by David Ortiz in Game 2 of the American League championship battle with the Detroit Tigers. As Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter flew over the wall in vain to catch the ball, Globe photographer Stan Grossfeld captured Steve Horgan of the Boston Police Department exulting along with the Fenway faithful, his outstretched arms in perfect synch with Hunter’s upside-down legs.
The 50-year-old, 27-year veteran of the force became the most famous Sox fan the rest of the run. He rode with team owner John Henry in the lead vehicle of the Sox rolling victory parade and joined Ortiz and Shane Victorino in shaving off their beards for the One Fund. Asked in an interview about the moment, he said, “I saw the ball land in the bullpen, and because I’m a Sox fan, I just raised my arms. . . I do it every time. It’s just the first time it was caught on film.”
DERRICK Z. JACKSON
In dense urban centers, 300-square-foot apartments are nothing new; residents of New York, Paris, and Tokyo are well-versed in the tradeoff between space and location. But rebranded as “micro-units,” tiny apartments have gained traction in resurgent cities like Boston, too, as part of the trendy urban planner’s standard toolkit for divvying up space. (See also: bike sharing, food trucks, pop-up stores.) This year, the Boston Redevelopment Authority sought to ease minimum apartment sizes somewhat, making way for more micro-units. In his mayoral campaign, Marty Walsh supported building perhaps 1,000 of them across the city.
President Obama this year found a red line can prove more difficult to enforce than to draw. In August 2012, he pledged severe consequences should Bashar Assad of Syria use chemical weapons against rebel fighters or civilians. Intelligence reports this summer confirmed that red line had been crossed, putting the United States on the brink of yet another military intervention in the Middle East. Fortunately, another loose ultimatum — this time by Secretary of State John Kerry — ended the standoff with Syria agreeing to hand over its chemical weapons.
A CRUCIAL episode of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” in June left audiences reeling and crying. Something happened that — well, in the spirit of spoiler avoidance, let’s just say something happened at a wedding. What’s notable is that millions of people had already read the fantasy books on which the series is based, so they knew a shocking episode was coming. Somehow, nearly all of them managed to stay mum until it aired. The Red Wedding turned out to be an encouraging test case for TV-viewing etiquette in the social media era — as well as a new shorthand for a game-changing moment in any TV show. The term was later used to describe an episode of “The Good Wife” where . . . well, something happened.
Maybe you actually watched “Beverly Hills 90210” star Ian Ziering saw a shark in half with a chainsaw during a tornado. Maybe you only heard about it because the campy B-movie on the SyFy network became a massive, unexpected Twitter phenomenon. In an era of overdone special effects and high-minded prestige dramas, “Sharknado” was a midsummer jolt of campy relief: proof that people across the country can bond over preposterous TV.
shelter in place
A term that’s basically Cold War-ese for “staying indoors” took on new importance in Massachusetts this year. On the Friday morning after the Marathon bombing, police agencies combed the streets of Watertown in a furious search for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Fearing that the bombing suspect would slip away, or perhaps harm morning commuters on a crowded MBTA, Governor Patrick asked a million residents of Boston, Watertown, and other communities to shelter in place. They did.
Some critics argued that the post-Marathon lockdown showed future terrorists how to disrupt the economy. But locally, the move was widely taken as a sign of authorities’ determination to get their man. Even without Patrick’s order, productivity would have plunged in workplaces around the region. Stunned and bewildered by the events of the week, most Bostonians were riveted to their screens.
As the troubles with HealthCare.gov became embarrassingly apparent, President Obama likened his administration’s repair efforts to the troop escalation that once helped stabilize the situation in Iraq. “We’ve had some of the best IT talent in the entire country join the team. And we’re well into a tech surge to fix the problem,” Obama said. Those e-enforcements came amid accusations that entailed more IT jargon: that, in its frantic attempts to mend the website, the administration was “hot-swapping code” — which is to say, attempting to repair the troubled software while it was in operation. This approach, some administration critics charged, could put enrollees’ sensitive information at risk.
The whorl of website troubles also gave more conventional terms an IT twist: “front end” and “back end,” the former being the part of a website a customer interacts with, the latter signifying the segment that actually completes someone’s enrollment in a specific health plan. By mid-December, the tech surge raised hopes that both the front end and back end of HealthCare.gov would work well enough to withstand the end-of-year-crunch. But not before the roll-out had proved a colossal pain in the administration’s rear end.
Abenomics (n.) — signs of life in Japan
Bitcoin (n.) — fad or the future of money?
sequester (v., n.) — threat becomes reality
selfie (n.) — trend in presidential, papal photos
election fatigue (n.) — voter patience tested
Cape Flyer (n.) — new service, old tracks
twerk (v.) — New Orleans dance goes global
lean in (v.) — Facebook exec’s advice for women
drone (n.) — lethal weapon as delivery service
rubber sidewalks (n.) — Rob Consalvo geeks out
crack mayor (n.) — Toronto gets interesting
MOOC (n.) — online courses shake up higher ed
PRISM (n.) — NSA data collection creates uproar
stand your ground (v.) — Fla. law under fire