Post by Jenny
I’m a sucker for end-of-the-year lists, and Merriam Webster Online recently posted its trend-watch words for 2012. These are the words that saw a spike in “look-ups”as a result of news-worthy events.
As may be expected in an election year, many words—from January 3rd’s caucus to November 6th’s socialism—were used in a political context. As this was a most contentious campaign cycle, most of the words did not have positive connotations—ambivalence, gibberish, gaffe, wonk, rhetoric, vituperative, malarkey. (I have a few others I would add.)
If there’s anything that stirs up emotion as much as politics, it’s sports. Decathlon won’t rile anyone up, but I’m presuming that was not the case when a Texas cheerleading coach called her squad “highfalutin’ heifers.” A disputed call in the NFL was deemed egregious (and so was Paula Deen’s Southern cookin’ when she revealed she was diabetic). The NFL was also responsible for prima donna (in connection with the alleged New Orleans Saints bounty scandal).
Popular culture contributed reductive (Madonna vs. Lady Gaga), narcissism (hello, Facebook), reconcile (celebrity relationships), and touché (the name of Disney’s new touch-screen technology). Movies inspired look-ups of dystopian (Hunger Games) and genre (vampires, in this case slain by Abraham Lincoln). Health and science added boson (the God particle) and visceral (belly fat, y’all).
Writer words made the list, too, including irregardless (from Top 10 Grammar Peeves), roman à clef and acerbic (after the passings of Nora Ephron and Gore Vidal), and the cri de coeur of a former Goldman Sachs exec which was published in the New York Times.
All of these are great words deserving of their fifteen minutes, but I think the best of all was guetapens, which a 14-year-old girl from San Diego spelled correctly to win the National Spelling Bee. My spell-check doesn’t even know how to spell that one.
I look up many words in the course of a year, but the only one I remember from 2012 is inchoate, which I’m pretty sure I look up every year because I can never seem to remember exactly what it means. Maybe in 2013 I’ll finally commit this definition to memory: at an initial or early stage; imperfectly formed or developed.
Do you have a favorite word from 2012?
(Find the complete M-W list here.)