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2012 Words of the Year

The Macquarie Dictionary recently announced its winners of word (or phrase) of last year. Those chosen by the selection committee and the general public to represent the zeitgeist reflected a similar theme. The committee’s choice was phantom vibration syndrome, or PVS. It describes the obsessive conviction that your phone is vibrating because of an incoming call, when actually it isn’t. This comparatively new syndrome might be regarded as a symptom of a broader malaise encapsulated in the winner of the People’s choice: First World problem. The phrase has been around for a while, to describe genuine social issues that arise in developed countries, such as obesity or industrial pollution, compared to those typical of the Third World, such as famine, poverty and overpopulation. Gradually First World problem has come to reflect the decadence and triviality of our society. Examples range from having to drink plunger coffee when your espresso machine has broken down, to losing the TV remote, or constantly worrying about whether your phone is delivering you a message.

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