The evolution of language on the Internet is truly a fascinating one, and future linguists will be shaking their head at the American Dialect Society’s choice for 2022 word of the year: “-ussy.”
The “-ussy” suffix is a callback to the word “pussy” and has exploded on the Internet in recent years. “-ussy” was a finalist for the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year title alongside “quiet quitting,” “rizz,” and “Slava Ukraine” which translates to “Glory to Ukraine.” The suffix is typically combined with a word to form a portmanteua with a new meaning. One common application is combing “-ussy” with “boy” to create “bussy,” which can now refer to a man’s anus.
“The selection of the suffix ‘-ussy’ highlights how creativity in new word formation has been embraced online in venues like TikTok,” said Ben Zimmer in a statement. Zimmer is a linguist, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and chair of the American Dialect Society’s New Words Committee. “The playful suffix builds off the word ‘pussy’ to generate new slang terms. The process has been so productive lately on social media sites and elsewhere that it has been dubbed ‘-ussification.’”
One of the earliest applications of the ‘-ussy’ suffix was in a meme involving Mr. Krabs from the cartoon Spongebob Squarepants set to a song from the now defunct text-to-singing app Ditty.it. In the video, a feminine voice sings “Mr. Krabs is one thicc bih. Let me see that krussy,” combining Krabs and ‘-ussy’ to refer to the character’s large derriere. The meme format spawned a wave of similar videos in the early 2010s using different characters and people for the punchline.
The American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year adds to the growing list of Internet-related words that went viral in 2022. Oxford crowned the meme phrase “goblin mode” as Word of the Year, while Merriam-Webster named “gaslight”—a mental health term that saw traction on social media this year—as its word of the year.