Words Of The Year

Merriam Webster, the dictionary publisher with a big online presence, has announced the most looked-up words of 2012.  The top two, tied as Words of the Year, are socialism and capitalism.  That Americans evidently don’t know what those two words mean helps explain the election.

Others in the top ten are Democracy, globalization, marriage, bigot, malarkey, meme, touche, schadenfreude, professionalism.

Last year the top word was austerity. The year before that, it was pragmatic.

That Americans don’t know the meaning of these words and so have to look them up explains everything!

 

via Merriam Webster’s Word Of The Year For 2012.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Rob

    Who on earth uses the words meme or schadenfreude in there everyday interactions with the average person?

  • Rob

    Who on earth uses the words meme or schadenfreude in there everyday interactions with the average person?

  • Kathy

    I second Rob @1. I just looked up those two words, never heard of them before.

  • Kathy

    I second Rob @1. I just looked up those two words, never heard of them before.

  • Tom Hering

    I’ve heard those two words used by all sorts of professionals when they’re interviewed on television. It’s a trend among those types. Like starting every answer (even every sentence) with the word “so.”

    However, I don’t think “meme” and “schadenfreude” will ever become as obnoxiously ubiquitous as the phrase, “at the end of the day.”

  • Tom Hering

    I’ve heard those two words used by all sorts of professionals when they’re interviewed on television. It’s a trend among those types. Like starting every answer (even every sentence) with the word “so.”

    However, I don’t think “meme” and “schadenfreude” will ever become as obnoxiously ubiquitous as the phrase, “at the end of the day.”

  • Rob

    Shared “schadenfreude” with a coworker last night after I read this and we had a good laugh because our shop is full of them! I think it willl be a regular word in our vocabulary now. LOL

  • Rob

    Shared “schadenfreude” with a coworker last night after I read this and we had a good laugh because our shop is full of them! I think it willl be a regular word in our vocabulary now. LOL

  • Steve Bauer

    So it seems there are 1) people who look up the meaning of words they do not know so that they grow in understanding and 2) people who scoff at those who seek to correct deficits in their knowldege. It’s almost as if those in the second group were born with a copy of Merriam Webster in their brains.

    I wonder which path is the one of wisdom.

    But wait, this post may be correct. If people looked up the meanings of socialism and capitalism and used this understanding to vote in the election, that would explain the results.

  • Steve Bauer

    So it seems there are 1) people who look up the meaning of words they do not know so that they grow in understanding and 2) people who scoff at those who seek to correct deficits in their knowldege. It’s almost as if those in the second group were born with a copy of Merriam Webster in their brains.

    I wonder which path is the one of wisdom.

    But wait, this post may be correct. If people looked up the meanings of socialism and capitalism and used this understanding to vote in the election, that would explain the results.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Who doesn’t use schadenfreude in everyday conversation? It is an awesome German word that is fun to say. I also use the word meme, but I work a lot with teens and I am more than just a bit of geek so that might have something to do with it.

    @#3 At the end of the day, schadenfreude is just another meme.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Who doesn’t use schadenfreude in everyday conversation? It is an awesome German word that is fun to say. I also use the word meme, but I work a lot with teens and I am more than just a bit of geek so that might have something to do with it.

    @#3 At the end of the day, schadenfreude is just another meme.

  • DonS

    That Americans don’t know the meaning of these words and so have to look them up explains everything!

    But that they looked them up and still voted the way they did must be schadenfreude.

  • DonS

    That Americans don’t know the meaning of these words and so have to look them up explains everything!

    But that they looked them up and still voted the way they did must be schadenfreude.

  • Steve Bauer

    No, believing that they voted the wrong way and yet revelling in it (not that anyone is this blog is) would be schadenfreude.

  • Steve Bauer

    No, believing that they voted the wrong way and yet revelling in it (not that anyone is this blog is) would be schadenfreude.

  • SKPeterson

    This is all a bunch of malarkey. Must be all the globalization memes in the schadenfreude.

  • SKPeterson

    This is all a bunch of malarkey. Must be all the globalization memes in the schadenfreude.

  • Tom Hering

    Nominate “meme” and “schadenfreude” for the 2013 Banished Words List here.

  • Tom Hering

    Nominate “meme” and “schadenfreude” for the 2013 Banished Words List here.

  • Jon

    Yeah, I recall that “meme” gets tossed around on here quite a bit.

    Time for that one to go away.

  • Jon

    Yeah, I recall that “meme” gets tossed around on here quite a bit.

    Time for that one to go away.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Memes are everywhere on the i9nternet.
    One current meme is referring to fads as “memes.”

    Yes, banish it to the bit-bucket.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    Memes are everywhere on the i9nternet.
    One current meme is referring to fads as “memes.”

    Yes, banish it to the bit-bucket.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I meant to misspell “internet.” No, really.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    I meant to misspell “internet.” No, really.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    To second Steve (@5) a bit, there are many reasons to look things up in a dictionary, only one of which is learning the definition of a word you don’t know. I look up words I know all the time, sometimes for pronunciation, but usually just to make sure that the word is the best fit for what I had in mind. Most words have multiple definitions, you know.

    For instance, is it correct to call a person who sticks to his religious or political biases a “bigot”? Technically, yes, though most people these days are only familiar with the racial/ethnic aspect of this word.

    And people, I’m 37 and I learned about schadenfreude when I was in school. I guess I hang out with more Germanically-inclined people? (I call them my Schadenfreunden.) But SK (@9), don’t you personally revel in skadeglädje?

    I get that “meme” is only used by youngish people — it was only coined in the past four decades, after all. The word has, of course, meandered a bit in meaning and application since it was coined. But it’s a perfectly cromulent word.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    To second Steve (@5) a bit, there are many reasons to look things up in a dictionary, only one of which is learning the definition of a word you don’t know. I look up words I know all the time, sometimes for pronunciation, but usually just to make sure that the word is the best fit for what I had in mind. Most words have multiple definitions, you know.

    For instance, is it correct to call a person who sticks to his religious or political biases a “bigot”? Technically, yes, though most people these days are only familiar with the racial/ethnic aspect of this word.

    And people, I’m 37 and I learned about schadenfreude when I was in school. I guess I hang out with more Germanically-inclined people? (I call them my Schadenfreunden.) But SK (@9), don’t you personally revel in skadeglädje?

    I get that “meme” is only used by youngish people — it was only coined in the past four decades, after all. The word has, of course, meandered a bit in meaning and application since it was coined. But it’s a perfectly cromulent word.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Anyhow, I looked up “socialism” in the dictionary:

    When the government seizes control of private property for the purpose of distributing it to others.

    Then I looked up “capitalism”:

    When the government seizes control of private property for the purpose of distributing it to others, but the government is run by Republicans and they only give it to larger corporations.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Anyhow, I looked up “socialism” in the dictionary:

    When the government seizes control of private property for the purpose of distributing it to others.

    Then I looked up “capitalism”:

    When the government seizes control of private property for the purpose of distributing it to others, but the government is run by Republicans and they only give it to larger corporations.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    That must be the Ron Paul dictionary.

  • http://facebook.com/mesamike Mike Westfall

    That must be the Ron Paul dictionary.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    When the government seizes control of private property for the purpose of distributing it to others, but the government is run by Republicans and they only give it to larger corporations.

    WWOS — What would Obama say?

    Would he say using taxpayer money to fund Solyndra is capitalism or socialism? To me it looks like what tODD claims Republicans do. Okay, so can you give us a similar example of Republicans actually taking taxpayer money and funding larger corporations? Solyndra happens to be widely know, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Republican versions of the same sort of thing.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    When the government seizes control of private property for the purpose of distributing it to others, but the government is run by Republicans and they only give it to larger corporations.

    WWOS — What would Obama say?

    Would he say using taxpayer money to fund Solyndra is capitalism or socialism? To me it looks like what tODD claims Republicans do. Okay, so can you give us a similar example of Republicans actually taking taxpayer money and funding larger corporations? Solyndra happens to be widely know, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t Republican versions of the same sort of thing.

  • helen

    tODD,
    I had to look up meme and cromulent, and I intend to forget both as fast as possible. ;) [My spell check won't buy cromulent.] :)

    Schadenfreude will stick; it’s a remnant of my youth, although I recognize rather than use it.

    I must have a “Ron Paul” dictionary!

  • helen

    tODD,
    I had to look up meme and cromulent, and I intend to forget both as fast as possible. ;) [My spell check won't buy cromulent.] :)

    Schadenfreude will stick; it’s a remnant of my youth, although I recognize rather than use it.

    I must have a “Ron Paul” dictionary!

  • helen

    sg@ 17
    Okay, so can you give us a similar example of Republicans actually taking taxpayer money and funding larger corporations?

    TARP . Not to mention all the “too big to fail” banks and savings and loans on the last round of this thievery in high places. The 1% made out pretty well in the 80′s, too.
    There wasn’t as much noise then as there is now about all the homeowners who had to walk away from their mortgages because they lost their jobs. [But BIGOIL bragged in their faces about the billions it saved.]

  • helen

    sg@ 17
    Okay, so can you give us a similar example of Republicans actually taking taxpayer money and funding larger corporations?

    TARP . Not to mention all the “too big to fail” banks and savings and loans on the last round of this thievery in high places. The 1% made out pretty well in the 80′s, too.
    There wasn’t as much noise then as there is now about all the homeowners who had to walk away from their mortgages because they lost their jobs. [But BIGOIL bragged in their faces about the billions it saved.]

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