The word of the year for 2015 is autocorrect. It may seem strange declaring the word of the year for a year that is only just starting. We’ve just named 2014’s word of the year, after all, and it is torture, because 2014 had plenty of that. But even though we tend to look back at the end of the year to the events that shaped it—the top ten news stories, the films most annoying to North Korea, the best countries that have been invaded, the most significant airbag failures, the grammar rule most honored in the breach—at the end of the year we also start making predictions about the year to come: will politicians continue cozying up to white supremacists or will they be too busy smoking Cuban cigars? Will film makers see that featuring dictators in low-brow comedies may put studio mainframes at risk, but it’s great for box office? Will dictators release their own annoying films depicting unpleasant things that might happen to Hollywood directors? Plus, autocorrect represents a highly-refined, first-world kind of torture, and considering what 2014 was like, some correction seems in order.
But first, let’s look at what else 2015 has in store for the continually unpredictable and ever-surprising English language:
1. English will become the official language of the United States, almost.
Now that they control both the House and the Senate, Republicans, who deny climate change but fear language change, will finally force Congress to pass the English Language Unity Act, making English the official language of the U.S. government and giving individuals the right to sue if they have been injured by a violation of this law (4 USC 6:166).
Making English the official language of government isn’t necessary, because English has always been the language of government and that isn’t going to change any time soon. Besides, it turns out that no one has ever been injured by a violation of an official English law, that’s never, not ever. And anyway, Pres. Obama will veto the bill when it gets to his desk because despite Republican fears, English, which is the most popular language on the planet as well as the most popular language in history, is not actually melting into the oceans or killing off our honey bees. And the bill’s supporters, who maintain that English is older than the Bible and the dinosaurs, and maybe even the Big Bang, which they insist never happened, will not be able to gather enough votes to override that veto because elected officials don’t want to alienate ethnic voters and put their jobs at risk.
In the absence of this bit of useless legislation, nothing will happen to English, which will remain the unofficial language of the United States. Laws, courts, and schools will continue to operate in English. Paradoxically, conservatives, who do not want any animals on the endangered species list, will continue to put English on the endangered language list.
2. In 2015, the word phone call will go into a sharp decline, with some lexicographers marking it as obsolescent. It will be pushed out by a new word, spexting.
Technology will continue to have a major impact on language. Complaints that handwriting is a lost art will be drowned out by complaints that keyboarding is a lost art, because more and more people will speak their text messages and search queries into their smartphones—a practice that will be called spexting. No one will speak into their phones to make phone calls, which is what phones used to be for. The phone’s keyboard will atrophy, and people’s fingers will forget how to type. People who have already given up their landlines will start dropping their mobile phone contracts but they will keep their data plans. The telephone had a good run, they will say, but frankly, “I’ll talk to you later” means “I’ll text or DM you,” and with a data plan, no one needs to make phone calls.
3. In 2015, NASA will send a new plaque into space to let intelligent aliens know we come in peace.
Prompted by an unspecified dystopic catastrophe which turns the world into a cold, grey North Korea, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration will send probes into space to seek out new worlds, updating the plaque that NASA placed on Pioneer spacecraft in the 1970s in order to communicate with “intelligent scientifically-educated beings” and maybe get them to contribute to the space agency’s declining budget.
Above: the NASA plaque used on the Pioneer space probes in the 1970s. Below: the NASA plaque, updated for the agency’s 21st century space probe.
The redesigned NASA plaque will be understood by any alien who knows enough to distinguish the space probe from meteors, comets, and random space junk; who can see the visible spectrum; who can understand the principles of cartooning; who can sort a visual image into foreground, background, and middle ground; and who knows what a laptop and a subway busker are. In addition, the plaque shows a schematic of the solar system, the nucleus of a helium atom, the fourteen pulsars of the solar system, and a naked human couple. The first plaque never brought a response. NASA hopes that this time, ET will text us back.
There will be some controversy over the plaque not because it is unlikely that the dingus will ever be found by a creature who can understand it, but because a NASA computer was hacked to place an image of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un on the plaque. And there will be some snarky comments on Twitter because Kim seems to be ignoring the naked couple while hailing a cab from a subway platform. But since the Republican-controlled Congress will refuse to allocate funds for the space agency to fix the plaque, the mission will be launched as is. It will later turn out that the plaque was an art project funded by the NEA and intended for an art gallery in NOHO. It was mistakenly delivered to NASA by the U.S. Postal Service, which blamed the mistake on declining literacy rates, the confusing alphabet soup of federal agencies, and plans to end Saturday mail delivery.
Reacting to the plaque snafu, speaker of the House John Boehner will tell reporters, “No alien is going to be able to understand the plaque because it’s all pictures, math, and diagrams, not English. If space aliens can read English, we wouldn't have to do this at all.” He will then propose a bill to make English the official language of the universe.
4. The word of the year for 2015 will be autocorrect.
Thanks to autocorrect, 2015 will prove a year in which our devices take over all editing functions, allowing humans the freedom to communicate creatively, spontaneously, and freely without worrying about correctness, context, or making any sense. We will stop our futile attempts to retype text that has been autocorrected into absurdity because our devices really do know what we want to say, or what we should say, or, since the newest upgrades to autocorrect will be able to switch off our devices randomly, whether we should say anything at all. Once we realize that autocorrect knows what’s best for us, a sense of calm will descend on us, human strife will cease, and we will realize that it was not an anonymous hacker, but autocorrect, that placed Kim Jong-un on the NASA plaque.
And in 2015, we will finally realize that all those annoying context-sensitive ads on our social media feeds are really autocorrected messages from outer space, and intelligent, scientifically-educated space aliens will ooze out of our smartphones, tablets, and laptops to begin the process of correcting us and making the earth their own. With autocorrect, resistance will prove futile.