Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2009: The Year -in' Was In

2009 can (and will) be declared the year of many things: Twitter, health care reform, Lady Gaga, Barack Obama, celebrity deaths, and high-profile philandering all come to mind as reasonable options. Amidst all these, though, I would like to submit a new candidate: the gerund. Or, more specifically, -ing, or, even more specifically, -in' (as in "somethin' somethin'"). This year, from pop music to the oval office to newborn babies, -in' ruled.

The popular music charts in 2009 were really embodied by the notorious Kanye West-Taylor Swift microphone shakedown at the VMAs--it was rap and urban electro meeting, not so gracefully, with country and poppy americana. As Kings of Leon mingled with Jay-Z and T-Pain bought Miley Cyrus a drank, these disparate parties could find common ground in their fondness for the abridged gerund, -in' sound. Arguably the most popular song of the year, with 20 weeks in Billboard's Hot 100 top ten, was "I Gotta Feeling" by Black Eyed Peas. The song's bouncy refrain has will.i.am digitally tonguing the utility of the -in' in "feeling." (Curiously, the song's title preserves the proper spelling of "feeling" but muddies the meaning of "gotta"... isn't it "got to"?)

Recent Nobel Prize winner, and 2009 cover boy, President Barack Obama is also fond of the gerund. During his inauguration ceremony in January, Obama started his address by saying that the Presidential oath is often "taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms." In Oslo this month, Obama concluded his Nobel acceptance speech with the image of "a mother facing punishing poverty."

The most significant evidence that -in' took America by storm in 2009 is the year's list of most popular baby names. While Gawker summed up the 2009 trends in baby-naming as "America: dumb people, fancy names," the top names, collectively, are more noteworthy for the way they sound as opposed to how fancy they are. Overwhelmingly, the most popular baby names in 2009 ended in an -in' sound. Aiden and Madeline (and their alternate spellings) were the most popular boys' and girls' names of 2009, respectively. The second most popular girls' name was Madison while six of the boys' top ten were -in' names (Owen, Ethan, Jackson, Evan, Braden, plus Aiden). Also, Reuters points out that this sound extends beyond the top ten. "Variations on the name Aiden," the newswire reported, are "dominating both boys and girls names, such as Jayden, Brayden and Hayden."

In a world of blogging, Googling, texting, and sexting, it only makes sense that our tongues would drift to our hard palettes in an -in' sound. Still, it all makes one pause and wonder, as Twitter did, "What are you doing?"

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