I always look forward to Merriam-Webster’s Word Of The Year for the oppotunity it give us of of glancing back at where we have been and looking forward to where we might be headed. And, this year, I will also been taking a look at what Google Trends has to say about what’s been our our minds during the last twelve months.
In his Mashable column last week, Gianluca Mezzofiore reports that Merriam-Webster has declared “feminism” to be its Word Of The Year for 2017. Merriam-Webster’s editor Peter Sokolowski says that “searches for the term ‘feminism’ on the dictionary’s site increased 70% in 2017 compared to the previous year. Although this is not an original term like “selfie” was a few years ago, it is quite understandable why ‘feminism” should be the chosen word for this year. According to Mezzofiore, searches for this word “spiked after key events such as the Women’s March on Washington DC and other US and international cities in January; Kellyanne Conway’s interview in which she said she doesn’t consider herself a feminist; the release of Hulu’s series The Handmaiden’s Tale and the film Wonder Woman; [and] the rise of the #MeToo movement, which was the basis behind Time magazine’s Person of the Year.” So, given the gravity of the events listed above, plus several others, “feminism” is a good choice, not only for this year but also for the past quarter century or so. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, organizers of the infamous Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention of 1848 would no doubt be proud.
Other words on the annual list include “Complicit,” which was also chosen as Dictionary.com’s Word Of The Year. Interest in this highly-misunderstood term peaked after the much-discussed Saturday Night Live skit with Scarlett Johansson, Needless to say, many of these words are associated with the Trump administration, which has made for a very bumpy ride this year, regardless of which side of the political fence you are on. Moving along, we find the inclusion of other words like “Recuse,” “Federalism” (our second President, John Adams, would probably identify with this one), and “Dotard” (made famous by none other than Kim Jong-Un). Also in the list is “Gyro” (referring to Jimmy Fallon’s comedy sketch), “Hurricane” (see below), and “Gaffe” (remember the Academy Awards?). If I were making the choice, I would choose “Syzygy” as this year’s Word, not only because it looks so neat and probably will never be correctly pronounced, but also because it is derived from a Greek word meaning “yoked together” and describes the perfect alignment of three celestial bodies (as in this summer’s total eclipse). While none of these words, with the exception of the one used by the North Korean leader, are original, all of them serve to capture much of what most concerned and often amused us during the past year. In fact, an entire course could be based on an analysis of Webster’s choices of Word of the Year over the years.
Up next is something that may soon eclipse (no pun intended, I think) the Word Of The Year. And that is Google Trend’s annual look at what we were looking up online, In a Fortune column by Natasha Bach, we learn that Google’s Annual “Year In Search” tells us, not surprisingly, that we made Matt Lauer the most searched person, the iPhone 8 the most searched gadget, and “Stranger Things” as the most searched TV series (if you still believe we should continue using the anachronistic term “TV”). This year Google intrigued us with a listing of the most popular “How To” searches, and this list speaks volumes about what makes us tick.
Not surprisingly, “How To Become A More Intelligent Voter” or “How To Become A Better Critical Thinker” were not on the list, but the following things were:
- Make slime
- Make solar eclipse glasses
- Watch Mayweather vs. McGregor
- Buy Bitcoin
- Freeze your credit
- Solve a Rubic’s Cube (yes, this annoying little cube is back)
- Make a fidget spinner (any of these on your wish list?)
- Cook a turkey in the oven (as opposed to in the microwave?)
- Screen record
Note how none of these DIY items have anything to do with politics or how to create world peace or foster better human relations. Interestingly (and strangely) enough, the only How To I looked up this year was How To Tie A Bowtie. I have very simple needs and have no desire to make slime, having been slimed several years ago during a Nickelodeon show at Dollywood (my daughter set me up for this). And I didn’t dare trying to make my own solar eclipse glasses.
If you are interested in learning more about Google Trends and what all this data might be telling us, I suggest your reading Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s new book EVERYBODY LIES: BIG DATA, NEW DATA, AND WHAT THE INTERNET CAN TELL US ABOUT WHO WE REALLY ARE.
I will leave you to search for meanings that might be hidden amid all the foregoing information. In the meantime, I am wishing you a syzygyistic kind of Christmas that finds you and your loved ones yoked together in peace, love, happiness, and laughter.
See you next week with some end-of-year reflections.