Friday, December 2, 2016

Merriam-Webster v. fascism

Merriam-Webster is encouraging readers to look up something other than fascism, which threatens to become its Word of the Year:

In another tweet, M-W seems to suggest looking up flumadiddle instead: “something foolish or worthless.” And guess what? Flumadiddle is now in the top one percent of lookups. Click on the link for the word and then click on the magnifying glass, as many times as you like.

Fascism would indeed be a fitting word for this year, but for some that would be cause for celebration. I’ll vote with Merriam-Webster for flumadiddle. Other words come to mind too, but I want my votes to count.

[These tweets mark an unusual way for lexicographers to be prescriptive, not descriptive.]


5:00 p.m.: Merriam-Webster has added a page of explanation: “Our Word of the Year cannot be rigged. . . . We look for a word which got a high number of lookups and increased dramatically in popularity when compared to previous years.” So lookups alone — despite “# of lookups = how we choose our Word of the Year” — are not decisive. Flumadiddle is out. Ditto fascism, “a perennial top lookup.”

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