"Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment."
~ Learned Hand, jurist (1872-1961)
Top ten this, top ten that. Oscar Awards for films and the people who make them, Emmy Awards for the best in television, Grammys for music, Blackwell’s awards for the worst- and best-dressed celebrities. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that Merriam-Webster tracks and identifies the ten most popular words of the year, that is, the ten words that are most commonly looked up on its online dictionary. Unlike other narrow best/worst lists, this list of words provides a revealing look at what is happening during a particular year in terms of culture, politics, nature, the media, and a slew of other human concerns.
Not surprisingly, in 2008, the economy and the presidential election were on the minds of many people. Based on tracked online searches during 2008, here are Merriam-Webster’s top Words for 2008:
- bailout (noun)
The government’s bailout of banks, insurance companies,
and automobile manufacturers—at the expense of American taxpayers—will continue
to be a hot topic as president-elect Obama takes office in January 2009. Reaction
around the world to Obama’s election as the first black
Supporters of John McCain touted their candidate as a maverick (while liberals compared him
to the unpopular cowboy, George W. Bush). Some said that the media attacks on
Sarah Palin, McCain’s choice for vice-presidential running mate, were a lesson
As National Review
reporter Byron York noted in October 2008, "Watching press coverage of the
Republican candidate for vice president, it's sometimes hard to decide whether
Sarah Palin is incompetent, stupid, unqualified, corrupt, backward, or all of
the above. Palin, the governor of
Let us all hope and pray
that when he is president, Barack Obama is able to keep his promise to nurture
and encourage bipartisan leadership
and governance in the executive and legislative branches. Bipartisan cooperation is what will be needed to deal with rogue states, such as Iran and North Korea
Meanwhile, over at the much-less pedestrian Oxford University Press, there is a different Top Ten list of words from 2008. The Word of the Year, according to OUP, is “hypermiling.” Now, I have to admit: I’ve never heard that term before. But then again, I don’t get out much; I’m too busy worrying about all my tax dollars that are going towards the big Fed bailout. Ugh.