merriam-webster’s word of the year for 2016 is…..

at the end of november, @merriam-webster (the dictionary) tweeted

the tweet inspired an article by ben guarino at the washington post with this headline

Merriam-Webster’s plea: There’s still time to prevent ‘fascism’ from becoming word of the year

a plea is an urgent request or begging.

sponge bob making a plea .

guarino’s article informs that

words such as misogyny and fascism have had huge bursts of interest, particularly after the election. users looked up fascism at a rate 400 percent higher in 2016 than in 2015.

merriam-webster’s on-line dictionary defines misogyny as hatred of women; and fascism is a political philosophy that puts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.  burst indicates sudden and intense moments.  look up means use the dictionary to find a definition.

fascism definition in an old school dictionary

looking up fascism in an old-fashioned dictionary.

there were bursts of look-ups for misogyny and fascism in 2016 because of comments by and accusations against donald trump during the u.s. presidential election.

fun elt practice :) richyrocks english on youtube

although fascism

spiked in november searches, [it] was an object of interest all year long. the unusually high interest in its definition over the course of 2016 has propelled it to the fourth-most-searched word in the history of the dictionary’s website.

spike means hit a high point. propel means push, power.

two fascists share a laugh
did merriam-webster’s tweet motivate their followers to look up other words? or did the dictionary just decide against fascism because of its nasty overtones?  whatever the reason, surreal is merriam-webster’s word of the year, a considerably less unpleasant pick (selection) than fascism.
the philosopher's lamp by rene magritte
the philosopher’s lamp by the surrealist artist rené magritte. a nose that looks like a dick is highly surreal.

Between Cubs and Trump, Merriam-Webster’s ‘surreal‘ word of the year is spot on

spot on means completely accurate, correct. surreal means dreamlike, unbelievable.

surreal moment in an acceptance speech

a february vlog on the richyrocks youtube channel used the word surreal to describe winning an award

not to brag (which means i’m going to brag)  but was spot on with surreal all the way back in february 2016. did we have any influence on merriam-webster’s decision? probably not. stevens explains

surreal experienced three major spikes in 2016: in march, when the word was used during coverage of the terror attacks in brussels; in july, when it was used to describe a coup attempt in turkey and the terrorist attack in nice; and in november, when donald trump was elected president of the united states.

was used and was elected are typical applications of the passive voice.

two ladies looking at their phone won't look up

because we can look up so many things on our phones, sometimes we don’t look up from our phones. (gary turk, youtube)

what other criteria does merriam-webster have for selecting their word of the year?

to select a word of the year, editors zero in on words that are suddenly hot, rather than words that receive the most overall look-ups. that means they rule out so-called “evergreen” words such as democracy, fascism and pragmatic, which are looked up frequently year-round, regardless of specific news events.

zero in on means focus on. rather than means instead of,  it shows a preference. rule out means decide against. regardless means it didn’t make any difference.

david lynch’s blue velvet is an example of surrealistic cinema.

it was surprising to see heidi stevens list fascism as an evergreen word after all the attention it received in november, but it’s fine that merriam-webster opted for surreal instead. as ben guarino observed in his article for the washington post, fascism would have rounded out (completed)

a cluster of bleak words for the year 2016. across the pond, the oxford dictionaries announced that “post-truth” was this year’s word. the phrase does not mean beyond fact, but rather the sense that objective truth may be less relevant than appeals to emotion or belief. paranoid occupied the brains at cambridge dictionary. and chose xenophobia — the fear of strangers, foreigners or the alien — as its word of the year.

bleak means without hope. across the pond means on the other side of the atlantic ocean. post-truth references not only donald trump’s campaigning style, but also false promises that helped the brexit to pass in june of this year.

cambridge dictionary‘s bleak word choice, paranoid, at least has a cool psychedelic video associated with it

was  2016 a surreal year for u? are fascism, post-truth, xenophobia, paranoid or misogyny better choices for word of the year? is there another word that catches the essence of 2016 more accurately? share your opinion under leave a reply.


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