As each year comes to a close, the various dictionary companies present their “words of the year,” based on how often those words were looked up.
The 2018 Word of the Year for Merriam-Webster is JUSTICE. I wondered why this particular word was so frequently looked up, as it’s one most people would be familiar with. Merriam-Webster’s guess is because the Department of Justice was cited so often this past year because of Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s dealings with the Russians. Now it remains to be seen whether justice will be served.
In case you were wondering (and even if you weren’t), here is what Wikipedia has to say about the Merriam brothers and Noah Webster:
- In 1828, George and Charles Merriam founded the company as G & C Merriam Co. in Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1843, after Noah Webster died, the company bought the rights to An American Dictionary of the English Language from Webster’s estate.
This is fun—check out this link: Merriam-Webster’s Time Traveler. Enter any year and find what words were first introduced into the M-W Dictionary that year. See what words were born when you were.
Lake Superior State University, of Northern Michigan, released its 43rd annual list of words and phrases that chilled many of us to the core in 2017. Here are the 14 that made the list:
Unpack (not talking about suitcases here)
Let that sink in
Let me ask you this
Impactful (I can still recall the first time I heard this, about eight years ago, and I’m still shuddering)
Covfefe (Did we ever figure out what this meant?)
Hot water heater (It’s a cold water heater—or just a water heater)
Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year is youthquake, while Merriam- Webster went with feminism.
I’d also add “Believe me.” When I hear that, I immediately question the veracity of the speaker. What are your “favorites”?
No, not the ones George Carlin once observed could not be said on TV (but now are commonly heard). These come from the Trump administration, which informed the Centers for Disease Control that the following words will not be acceptable when preparing the budget for 2018:
The CDC is a scientific organization. Try writing for that organization without using the words on the list. If you remember the term “newspeak,” from George Orwell’s 1984, you may be shuddering, as am I. Here is Merriam-Webster’s definition of newspeak:
In other words, reshaping and restructuring language to suit political ends, and the truth be damned.
bizarre: a surreal mix of fact and fantasy
Are we surprised? Interestingly, searches for this word peaked on November 9, the day after the presidential election.
© Judi Birnberg My Bigliest Painting
If you were among the 84 million people who watched Monday night’s presidential debate, you might have sat up straighter in your seat when Donald Trump announced, “I’m going to cut taxes bigly.” My posture suddenly improved as I yelped, “BIGLY?” Perhaps, as many now think, he meant to say “big league.” But he didn’t say that.
I then joined the zillions of people googling “bigly” and discovered that it is, according to Kory Stamper, a linguist with Merriam-Webster, a word that dates to approximately 1400, when it was used to mean “with great force” or “boastfully.” Then “bigly” disappeared for a very long time, only to be curiously resurrected this past Monday night.
I started thinking: If we do something “grandly,” “spaciously,” minutely,” or “microscopically,” then we could do something bigly. If we wanted to. I don’t want to. How about you?