NEW YORK (AP) — A nation, a workplace, an ethnicity, a passion, an outsized personality. The people who comprise these things, who fawn or rail against them, are behind Merriam-Webster’s 2014 word of the year: culture.
The word joins Oxford Dictionaries’ “vape,” a darling of the e-cigarette movement, and “exposure,” declared the year’s winner at Dictionary.com during a time of tragedy and fear due to Ebola.
Merriam-Webster based its pick and nine runners-up on significant increases in lookups this year over last on Merriam-Webster.com, along with interesting, often culture-driven — if you will — spikes of concentrated interest.
In the No. 2 spot is “nostalgia,” during a year of big 50th anniversaries pegged to 1964: the start of the free speech movement, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the birth of the Ford Mustang and the British Invasion heralded by the landing of the Beatles on U.S. soil for the first time.
Nostalgia was followed by insidious, legacy, feminism and a rare multiword phrase that can be looked up in total, in a foreign language at that: the French “je ne sais quoi.”
The Springfield, Massachusetts-based dictionary giant filters out perennial favorites when picking word of the year, but does that formula leave them chasing language fads?
“We’re simply using the word culture more frequently,” said Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster. “It may be a fad. It may not. It may simply be evolution.”
Sokolowski noted that the reasons words are looked up aren’t just about not knowing what they mean. Sometimes, he said, we seek inspiration or a way to check in on ourselves. Of an estimated 100 million lookups on the website each year and a similar number on the company’s app, culture enjoyed a 15 percent year-over-year increase… see more