“Shrinkflation”

Lynne Murphy’s final nominee for U.K.-to-U.S. Word of the Year is “shrinkflation,” a portmanteau coinage so new it’s not even in the Oxford English Dictionary. Merriam-Webster added it just this past September, with the definition “the practice of reducing a product’s amount or volume per unit while continuing to offer it at the same price.”

The word’s certainly been used a lot in America of late — seven times in the New York Times in 2022 (and none before that). And it’s certainly a phenomenon. A brief glimpse of my own fridge shows me a 52-ounce Tropicana orange juice container that used to be 64 and a 1.5-quoart Breyer’s ice cream package that used to be 2.

And it’s certainly of British origin. In an online article about the word, Merriam-Webster credits it to the British economist Pippa Malmgren, in 2015 (while also noting than another economist used it with a different meaning, which didn’t catch on, in 2009). However, using the News on the Web (NOW), I found British journalist Marc Shoffman using it in 2013.

In any case, NOW shows the word being used fairly infrequently through 2021, all or almost all in U.K. sources. It expanded into the U.S. in 2022, but, as Lynne Murphy says in her newsletter, it may not “have had enough of a run as a ‘British’ term to be considered an import to the US.”

So what’s my vote for Word of the Year? As noted in the last post, “fit” is not yet common enough here. “Fiddly” is a solid choice, but I’m going with the cheeky one and casting my vote for “soccer.”

When Lynne names a winner, I’ll let you know.

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