Defining the Times: 10 Words People Looked Up This Week
By Arika Okrent
People look up random words in the dictionary all the time, but sometimes a lot of people look up the same word—usually because of something in the zeitgeist, such as a shared experience, event, or celebrity pronouncement. Merriam-Webster.com keeps track of spikes in word lookups, and those spikes reveal what’s happening in the world, how people are talking about it, and what we’re noticing about what they’re saying. For the week of March 6, politics, pop culture, and sports drove people to the dictionary.
The Downton Abbey finale drove lookups for palsy, constitutional, auld lang syne, pernicious, livery, and marchioness/marquess. People also looked up many of the French Phrases used by characters on the show.
New York Times editorialist David Brooks called Ted Cruz oleaginous.
Peyton Manning announced his retirement, saying: “I revere football.”
4. AND 5. TENUOUS AND TENUIS
The #DemDebate drove lookups for tenuous. Unfortunately, also for tenuis, which is not the same thing.
6. PYRRHIC VICTORY
Hull vs. Arsenal. Arsenal won but suffered three injuries, in a Pyrrhic victory.
7. BY AND LARGE
Redditors learned that By and Large has a naval history.
8. BARN BURNER
The Michigan Primary was a real barn burner.
Tawdry lookups increased on 3/10, but we’re not sure why. If you know, share your thoughts in the comments on the page at Merriam-Webster.
Legacy seems to spike any time someone noteworthy passes away. It trended this week because of Nancy Reagan, RIP.