In 2010, we were treated to a interesting new word courtesy of Sarah Palin. “Refudiate“, which did not exist prior to Palin’s usage, made it as the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year. It was also included in the dictionary as a real word.
Halfway into the first month of 2012, we have several words to consider as Word of the Year for 2011. A simple search on Google using that phrase yielded several results, three of which we will take a look at in this week’s grammar post.
“Pragmatic” is a commonly used word, isn’t it? Merriam-Webster’s official definition1:
Relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters : practical as opposed to idealistic [pragmatic men of power have had no time or inclination to deal with … social morality — K. B. Clark]
So why is this Merriam-Webster’s choice? According to the panel, “pragmatic” was looked up so often via the online portal. Hence, it was the pragmatic choice for 2011 Word of the Year. I guess we cannot contest that!
I do find myself thinking about the underlying reasons people looked up “pragmatic” so much in 2011. Obviously, those people were not sure about the meaning of the word, but I can only guess what prompted those searches. Did news anchors and other similar personalities use pragmatic a lot? What do you think?
Oxford Dictionaries: SQUEEZED MIDDLE
If Merriam-Webster chose a common word, Oxford Dictionaries chose something that is relatively uncommon. To be honest, I think that I had never encountered this term prior to doing the research for this post. Have you? Then again, I am more exposed to American English (no judgement here), so my ignorance of this term is understandable.
Based on the OD blog post about their chosen Word of the Year, “squeezed middle” refers to “those seen as bearing the brunt of government tax burdens whilst having the least with which to relieve it”. The reason for the choice? The use of the term spread very quickly. Also, with the economic situation presumably not improving drastically in the near future, the use of the term is likely to continue.
Last, but definitely not the least, we have the 2011 Word of the Year as chosen by Dictionary.com. Now I know some people who would rather die than admit that they refer to this site, but I shall not be as picky as they are. Sure, I have Merriam-Webster as my default, but I do visit Dictionary.com now and then.
So who has heard/read/used the word “tergiversate”? Not me. Here’s the definition of the word2:
To change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate.
I laughed when I read the definition, because it is so simple, as opposed to actually pronouncing “tergiversate”! I will tell you now, though, that I am making it a point to use this word before the month ends – both in writing and (God help me) in speaking.
What do you think of the choices for 2011 Word of the Year? Are they appropriate to what happened in the past year? What would you have voted for if you were asked to nominate a word?