Whicj words do you reckon you’ve used more this year than last?
‘Pie-gate’ is probably up there, as is ‘bagel-gate’, for obvious reasons. Basically a load of different gates.
You’ve probably also used the phrase ‘put your hands on the car and get ready to die’ more times this year than last, but what about individual words?
Luckily, Merriam-Webster, the dictionary people, have done the hard work for us and figured out which words have been searched for the most this year.
That might not mean ‘most used’ necessarily, as you don’t always search for words you already know the meaning of, but there’s probably a fair bit of crossover.
One thing is for certain though – these words give a pretty good representation of what 2017 has been like as a year.
We’ve seen plenty of gaffes, or ‘noticeable mistakes’ (thanks, Merriam-Webster) this year: Prue Leith congratulating the Great British Bake Off winner before the show aired; the Cambridge News printing dummy text on their front page; 90% of the Brexit negotiations.
But the big one, and the one which sparked the rise in searches for the word, happened back in February during the Oscars ceremony. As you probably recall, La La Land was mistakenly read out as the Best Picture winner, before the mistake was corrected and Moonlight rightfully claimed its award.
Yeah, most of us probably know what a hurricane is, at least in a broad-brush sense, but this year saw Irma and several of her mates wreak havoc in both North and Central America.
With some being labelled hurricanes and others just tropical storms, people were clearly keen to work out the distinction and get to the bottom of the definition once and for all. “A tropical cyclone with winds of 74 miles (119 kilometres) per hour or greater that occurs especially in the western Atlantic, that is usually accompanied by rain, thunder, and lightning, and that sometimes moves into temperate latitudes,” in case you were wondering.
More of an American thing, here, but that’s to be expected given the US-English focus of the dictionary in question. Still, a full year of Donald Trump has made a lot of people much more politically active than they were in 2016.
Merriam-Webster defines federalism as “the distribution of power in an organization (such as a government) between a central authority and the constituent units”, and searches for the word almost quintupled year-on-year in the light of movement on the Affordable Care Act in the US.
No word yet on whether searches for this delicious Greek sandwich spiked around lunchtime, but let’s just say I’m getting hungrier just writing this entry. It’s a pitta bread filled with meat and salad, essentially, and it tastes better than whatever you’re eating right now.
You’re probably a little confused about why more people have searched for that word than for ‘hurricane’ in 2017. Well, it’s most likely all down to this song, performed by Jimmy Fallon and Luke Bryan. Oh, and it probably *should* be pronounced ‘yee-ro’, for those of you who were about to look it up yourselves purely for that purpose.
We can say with confidence that not every search for syzygy involved the correct spelling of the word, at least to begin with. Indeed that may be part of the reason why it features so high on this list.
It is defined as “the nearly straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies (such as the sun, moon, and earth during a solar or lunar eclipse) in a gravitational system”, so you won’t be surprised to learn a bunch of the searches will have been eclipse-related.
Sure, it’s not a word we’ve used much in general conversation before this year, but when Kim Jong-un used it to insult Donald Trump, a bunch of us suddenly decided it was good enough for us. Either that or it was just so unfamiliar that it was a genuine example of no one knowing what the hell it meant.
It’s essentially an old-fashioned way of saying ‘imbecile’, but there’s almost a quaint appeal to it that its more aggressive equivalents lack, as if Kim was transporting himself and the President into a Shakespeare play.
There’s a joke to be made here about millions of people taking until 2017 to understand what empathy was, but to do so would diminish the fact that, if we’re being honest, that’s probably what actually happened for a lot of folks.
It’s “the ability to share another person’s feelings”, and its popularity gives us all hope that, perhaps, the world might well become a nicer place eventually. We’re not holding out too much hope, though, what with the sheer number of people waiting until now to make it the most-searched word.
Like some of the others on this list, recuse is one of those words people use while trying to sound formal. It means, to “disqualify oneself as a judge in a certain case”, essentially a more official way of saying “I’m staying out of this”.
Merriam-Webster credits its spike to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions recusing himself from potential Department of Justice investigations into Hillary Clinton, as a consequence of his earlier comments about the 2016 Presidential candidate.
As you might have heard, crime and wrongdoing has been in the news quite a bit this year, be it in relation to the Harvey Weinstein allegations and the others which followed, or allegations of collusion with Russia within the US political system.
To be complicit is to “[help] to commit a crime or do wrong in some way”, and you can probably figure out from the above why certain people might have been keen to find out more about the word. And, relatedly, why people might have come across the word more frequently in 2017.
Top of the list in 2017 is feminism. Did people really not know what it was, or were they looking it up in order to win stupid arguments on the internet about whether someone’s feminism really counts (spoiler: don’t let others diminish it for the sake of it)? Regardless of the motivation, more people being aware of feminism surely has to be a good thing, right?
The word has multiple definitions, including “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests”, and searches spiked throughout the year, from the Women’s Marches in early 2017 to the #MeToo movement later in the year. Essentially, there was no time this year when feminism wasn’t relevant.
For the top 10 in full, with definitions and reasons for spikes, check out the Merriam-Webster blog.
(Images: Romain Vignes/Rex Features/Samantha Sophia)