Political terms dominate Merriam-Webster’s list of most-searched terms for the year

By Daniel S Levine,

The terms capitalism and socialism were thrown around frequently during the 2012 election season and Americans wanted to properly understand the two words. So it makes sense that the two terms, which are on far different ends of the political spectrum, would end up as Merriam-Webster’s most searched for terms of the year.

Editor at large Peter Sokolowski told The Associated Press that the traffic for the terms’ pages at the company’s site doubled this year, as the debate over health care, “European socialism” and “American capitalism” took over the presidential campaign.

“They're words that sort of encapsulate the zeitgeist. They're words that are in the national conversation,” Sokolowski said. “The thing about an election year is it generates a huge amount of very specific interest.”

This is the first time since 2003 that the Springfield, Mass.-based company has been forced to pick two terms for the words of the year.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, other political terms landed on the Top 10 list, including democracy at No. 5 and globalization at No. 7. Two terms related to the same-sex marriage debate - bigot (No. 3) and marriage (No. 4) - were also on the list.

Mularkey, which was used by Vice President Joe Biden during the vice presidential debate, reached No. 8, while meme hit No. 10.

The German word schadenfreude was No. 9 and could have been used by the Obama team analyzing the election victory. It means “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.”

The No. 2 and No. 6 spots were held by touché and professionalism, respectively. Touché’s page views spiked thanks to Survivor’s Kat Edorsson misusing the word on the CBS show. It means “tough luck.”



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