Riot police confront demonstrators in October during a general strike against the Spanish government’s austerity measures.
With the world economy still wallowing in crisis and social services being cut across poor and rich nations alike, it’s not surprising that the winner of Merriam-Webster’s annual “Top Ten Words of the Year” for 2010 is … austerity.
And, thanks to the fickle American voter, shellacking also made the list. —JCL
Merriam-Webster Inc., America’s leading language reference publisher, has announced the Top Ten Words of the Year for 2010. This profile of America’s mood and interests is determined by the volume of user lookups at Merriam-Webster.com in response to current events and conditions.
Topping the list is austerity, defined as “enforced or extreme economy.” Lookups for austerity peaked dramatically several times throughout the year, as people’s attention was drawn to global economic conditions and the debt crises in Europe, but lookups also remained strong throughout the year, reflecting widespread use of the word in many contexts. “Austerity clearly resonates with many people,” said Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large at Merriam-Webster, who monitors online dictionary searches. “We often hear it used in the context of government measures, but we also apply it to our own personal finances and what is sometimes called the new normal.”
Number two on the list is pragmatic, a word that rose steadily in searches this year, both during the election season and the political negotiations that followed. “In a way, the popularity of pragmatic is reminiscent of 2005, when integrity was the most frequently looked-up word,” said John M. Morse, President and Publisher of Merriam-Webster. “In both cases, I think the word described a quality that people value highly, want to understand fully, and are looking for in their leaders.”