Election Influenced Words of the Year

December 11, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) Merriam-Webster Inc. announced the Top Ten Words of the Year for 2012.

Two words, socialism and capitalism, share the top spot due to discussion and debate around the presidential election. Socialism saw its largest lookup spikes during coverage of health care but also saw peaks in the days following both conventions and each of the presidential debates. Capitalism, although looked up somewhat less often, rode the same waves of interest.  

“We saw a huge spike for socialism on Election Day itself, but interest in both words was very high all year,” says Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster.   

Other words on the list had a more lighthearted connection to political events. For example, meme spiked when Mitt Romney’s phrase whole binders full of women inspired a range of online parodies, and binders was dubbed the Internet meme of the moment.   

The number two word on the list was touché. Lookups of touché ran high all year, and it’s hard to say why, said John M. Morse, president and publisher at Merriam-Webster. It certainly gained attention when Disney Research revealed details about a new technology using that name and when used by a contestant of the hit TV series Survivor, but we think that it is simply a word enjoying a period of increased popular use, perhaps as a byproduct of the growing amount of verbal jousting in our culture, especially through social media. People use the word when acknowledging good points made by their opponents and, when the occasion permits, celebrating their own. 

The Top Ten Words of the Year are: 

  1. Socialism and capitalism 
  2. Touché 
  3. Bigot  
  4. Marriage 
  5. Democracy 
  6. Professionalism 
  7. Globalization 
  8. Malarkey 
  9. Schadenfreude 
  10. Meme