Top 10 most looked-up words of 2012? Lots of political malarkey. (+video)
Merriam-Webster released its list of the 10 most looked-up words in its online dictionary. Socialism and capitalism came joint first on a list heavily influenced by Election 2012.
Political lexicon inundated more than just TV commercials and newspaper columns this election season. It also drove Americans to Merriam-Websterâs online dictionary, helping them make sense of the vitriol.
On Wednesday, the dictionary publisher shared its Top 10 words, based on the volume of user lookups at Merriam-Webster.com. Political words dominated the list. Sharing the No. 1 spot: socialism and capitalism.
"They're words that sort of encapsulate the zeitgeist. They're words that are in the national conversation," Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Websterâs editor at large, told the Associated Press. "The thing about an election year is it generates a huge amount of very specific interest."
Socialism â âany of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goodsâ â drew its largest lookup spikes during health-care reform coverage as well as during the political conventions and presidential debates.
Capitalism â âan economic system characterized byÂ privateÂ or corporate ownership ofÂ capitalÂ goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in aÂ free marketâ â followed similar traffic trends but was looked up slightly less often.
"With socialism and capitalism, it's clear that many people turned to the dictionary to help make sense of the commentary that often surrounds these words,â said John Morse, president and publisher at Merriam-Webster, in a press release.
Making sense of the commentary meant understanding the negative connotations attached to both words, which was often injected into political debates and campaign ads.
Conservatives called President Obama a socialist, attacking wealth redistribution policies such as health-care reform, tax increases for the wealthy, and entitlement programs such as food stamps. Liberals hit back at Mitt Romney for his experience at his venture capital firm, Bain Capital, which they accused of killing jobs in the US. Even Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a fellow Republican, called Mr. Romney a âvulture capitalistâ during the primary.
Beyond socialism and capitalism, the list included other political words: Democracy ranked No. 5, globalization No. 7, as well as bigot (No. 3) and marriage (No. 4), which were driven by the same-sex marriage debate.
Words indirectly related to politics represent lighter side of election season.
Defined as âinsincere or foolish talkâ â malarkey was a âone-week wonderâ word, said Sokolowski. The No. 8-ranked word had the largest spike of lookups in a 24-hour period: 3,000 percent.
This yearâs presidential debates inspired three viral memes: Romney âfiringâ Big Bird, his âbinders full of women,â and Obamaâs military analogy to horses and bayonets. Meme â âan idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a cultureâ â was coined in 1976 by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and ranked No. 10.
âWith Facebook, Twitter and other social media, online response to news events has become simultaneous commentary â and parody,â Sokolowski said in the press release. âThe word memeÂ now sometimes serves as the noun form of the adjective viral.â
Liberals' post-election analysis often included the No. 9 word, schadenfreude â a German word meaning âenjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.â
Rounding out the list: No. 2 touchĂŠ â âused to acknowledge a hit in fencing or the success or appropriateness of an argument, an accusation, or a witty pointâ â and No. 6 professionalism â âtheÂ conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a professionÂ or aÂ professionalÂ person.â