The English language well represents the tumultuous and tempestuous world of today.
Excellent Question, Will …
August 2017, Austin, TEXAS, and NEWYORK (Update) — The Global Language Monitor (GLM) today announced the Top Words of the Year (#WOTY) for 2017.
Truth continues as the Top Word of the Year, while Narrative continues in second place. Reflecting the rising alarm GLM first pointed to during the first presidential debates, Opioids made the leap from No. 10 to No.3. Of the next seven spots, all were new to the rankings with the exception of the Nuclear Option (Korea), which moved up two spots to No. 5. New words included Woke, Deep State, and Robot Apocalypse. Regarding ‘fake news,’ newly unmasked as an ethnic slur, the term was supplanted by the concept of a ‘higher level of fake news’ — a time-honored methodology of creating and planting ‘legitimate’ news stories. The most downward trending were Brexit falling eight spots to No. 12, and No. 3 #Resist most dramatically dropping from No. 3 to No. 19.
GLM also announced that the Global English Word of the Year for 2016 was not a word but a meme: the blood-soaked image of Omran Daqneesh, five years old, sitting in an ambulance while awaiting treatment in Allepo, Syria. (Click Here to see Top Global English Words of 2016.)
“The amount of linguistic churn in this three-month span is interesting in the extreme. In fact, the English language well represents the tumultuous and tempestuous world of today.” said Paul JJ Payack, President, and Chief Word Analyst of GLM. “If this churn persists for a significantly longer period of time, this will presage an unprecedented moment in its history. “
Comparison with the earlier version continue below.
The Top Words, Phrases, and Names since the Turn of the Century
Top Words: No. 1 Truth, No. 2 Narrative, No. 3, #Resist
Top Phrases: No. 1 Make America Great Again No. 2 When they go low, we go high No. 3 The Electoral College
Top Names: No. 1 Donald Trump, No. 2 Vladimir Putin, No. 3 Neil Gorsuch
Top Words: No. 1 Microaggression
Top Phrases: No. 1 Migrant Crisis
Top Names: No. 1 Donald J. Trump
Top Words: No. 1 The Heart ♥ Emoji (for love) , No. 2 Hashtag , No. 3 Vape
Top Phrases: No. 1 Hands Up, Don’t Shoot; No. 2 Cosmic Inflation, No. 3 Global Warming
Top Names: No. 1 Ebola, No. 2 Pope Francis, No. 3 World War I
Top Words: No. 1 ’404’, No.2 Fail, No.3 Hashtag
Top Phrases: No. 1 Toxic Politics, No. 2 Federal Shutdown, No.3 Global Warming/Climate Change
Top Names: No. 1. Pope Francis, No. 2 ObamaCare, No.3 NSA
Top Words: No. 1 ApocalypseArmageddon, No.2 Deficit, No. 3 Olympiad
Top Phrases: No. 1 Gangnam Style, No. 2 Climate Change/Global Warming, No. 3 Fiscal Cliff
Top Names: No. 1 Newtown and Malala Yousafzai, No. 3 Xi Jinping
Top Words: No. 1 Occupy, No.2 Fracking, No.3 Drone
Top Phrases: No. 1 Arab Spring, No. 2 Royal Wedding, No.3 Anger and Rage
Top Names: No. 1 Steve Jobs, No. 2 Osama bin-laden and Seal Team Six, No.3 Fukushima
Top Words: No. 1 Occupy, No.2 Fracking, No.3 Drone
Top Phrases: No. 1 Anger and Rage, No. 2 Climate Change, No. 3 The Great Recession
Top Names: No. 1 Hu Jintao, paramount leader of China, No. 2 iPad, No. 3 Barack Obama
Top Words: No. 1 Twitter, No. 2 Obama-, No. 3 H1N1
Top Phrases: No. 1 King of Pop, No. 2 Obama-mania, No. 3 Climate Change
Top Names: No. 1 Obama, No. 2 Michael Jackson, No. 3 Mobama
Top Words: No. 1 Change, No. 2 Bailout, No. 3 Obama-mania
Top Phrases: No. 1 Financial Tsunami, No. 2 Global Warming, No. 3 “Yes, We Can!”
Top Names: No. 1 Barack Obama, No. 2 George W. Bush, No.3 Michael Phelps
Top Words: No. 1 Hybrid (representing all things green), No. 2: Surge
Top Phrase: Climate Change
Top Name: Al Gore
Top Word: Sustainable
Top Phrase: Stay the Course
Top Name: Dafur
Top Words: No. 1, Refugee No. 2: Tsunami No. 3: Katrina
Top Phrase: Outside the Mainstream
Top Name: (acts of ) God
Top Word: Incivility (for inCivil War)
Top Phrase: Red States/Blue States No. 2: Rush to War
Top Name: Dubya/Rove
Top Word: Embedded
Top Phrase: Shock and Awe, No. 2: Rush to War
Top Name: Saddam Hussein, No. 2 Dubya
Top Word: Misunderestimate
Top Phrase: Threat Fatigue
Top Name: W (Dubya)
Top Word: Ground Zero
Top Phrase: ‘Lets Roll’
Top Name: The Heros
Top Word: Chad
Top Phrase: Dot.com
Top Name: W (Dubya)
Methodology: The words are culled from throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.83 billion speakers (January 2013 estimate) GLM employs its NarrativeTracker technologies for global Internet and social media analysis. NarrativeTracker is based on global discourse, providing a real-time, accurate picture about any topic, at any point in time. NarrativeTracker analyzes the Internet, blogosphere, the top 300,000 print and electronic global media, as well as new social media sources as they emerge.
For More Information, go to LanguageMonitor.com or call 1.512.801.6823.
During the last 18 months, the world of language in the Industrialized West reflected the turmoil undergoing much of the political systems throughout the Year 2016 and continuing into early 2017, said Paul JJ Payack, presdent and chief word analyst of the Global Language Monitor..
However, it would be a mistake to characterize this time with the World, as a whole, in turmoil. After all, having one nation exiting the EU block of some twenty-eight counties along with the the election of what by European Standards is a Center-Right government in the United States does not equate to 1914, 1939, 1968, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the on-going Middle East conflagration, and/or the emergence of China onto the world economic stage earlier this century, or even the Global Economic Restructuring of 2008 and what continues in its wake.
If you kept abreast of the daily press reports, you would think an outbreak of mass hysteria or at least amnesia had swept over the nations of the West. The world’s leading print and electronic media acted as if the concept of truth had been circumvented, or even, contravened, and sounded alarm after alarm that what we all knew as facts were no longer discernible. The source of this disruption in the news cycle, of course, was what came to be known as fake news and post-truth.
As the various organizations that announced their particular choices for their Words of the Year (WOTY), 2016 had the dubious distinction of being labeled a ‘dumpster-fire’ by the American Dialect Society thereby furthering the concept of fake news. How else could a phrase that was scarcely uttered anywhere in the world in 2016 be chosen for this ‘honor’?
For historical comparisons of a number of the terms used in this analysis, GLM used the Google Ngram Viewer. You can use the Ngram Viewer to chart frequencies of comma-delimited search strings. The Google Ngram Viewer uses yearly counts from sources printed between 1500 and 2008, though in some cases later dates of publications are included.
In the first example, frequencies of citations between and among a number of words used to describe the Top Words of the Year for 2016 are plotted between 1940 and the present.
Figure 1. Relative Frequency of citations among words used to describe the Top Words of the Year for 2016
Figure 2. Close-up on Relative Frequency Among Some Top Words of the Year for 2016
Figure 3. Comparisons for the Words Truth Vs. Lie Since 1740
This is why early in the century, the Global Language Monitor put into place a methodology that clearly states that each considered word or phrase must adhere to the published criteria (see below). The methodology calls for words and phrases from the entire global English linguasphere to be considered, as well as each fulfilling geographic and demographic requirements. This automatically excludes the lists created by those organizations that rely on polls and other such non-scientific tools
A Methodology Optimized for the Wired World -- GLM’s Word of the Year rankings are based upon actual word usage throughout the English-speaking world, which now approaches some 2.38 billion people, who use the language as a first, second, business language. To qualify for these lists, the words, names, and phrases must meet three criteria: 1) found globally, 2) have a minimum of 25,000 citations, and 3) have the requisite ‘depth’ and ‘breadth’ of usage. Depth is here defined as appearing in various forms of media; breadth that they must appear world-over, not limited to a particular profession or social group or geography. The goal is to find the word usage that will endure the test of time.
Global Language Monitor began to use newly available technologies to document the Words of the Year for Global English at the turn of the 21st century, with the idea to encapsulate and capture the essence of the preceding twelve months in a sort of linguistic amber.
Consider for a moment that fact that in 2009 GLM named ‘twitter’ as the Global English Word of the Year, not only as a social media phenomenon but as a potential Weapon of Mass Disruption (or even destruction). Witness: 1) the Arab Spring and 2) the actions of one Donald J. Trump.
In a time so debilitated by the specter of political correctness (both from the left and the right), it seems rather demeaning to advance the concept of ‘fake news’, once you study its etymology, tracing back the origins of the word ‘fake’.
Cambridge Dictionaries’ definition of fakir: A Muslim (or, loosely, a Hindu) religious ascetic who lives solely on alms. Origin: Early 17th century: via French from Arabic faqīr. Fakir, Arabic Faqīr (“poor”), originally, a mendicant dervish. In mystical usage, the word fakir refers to man’s spiritual need for God, who alone is self-sufficient. Although of Muslim origin, the term has come to be applied in India to Hindus as well.
Fakirs are generally regarded as holy men who are possessed of miraculous powers, such as the ability to walk on fire or to subsist by looking only at the face of God.
In a Languagelog posting by Mark Liberman, How Fakirs Became Fakers, Edmund Wilson comments (from the grave) that Fakirs began to become entwined with fakers with a common usage that arose out of the American spiritualism craze of the 19th century. This is where one can witness the shift in meaning for the word fakir, from an Islamic religious ascetic to the Hindu “Yogi,” to a sort of street corner or carnival barker or “producer of illusions”.
In other words ‘fake news” joins a long list of ethnic slurs that have imbued American English since before the founding of the republic. They are too many to repeat. However the most common of these might be ‘ethnic-group’ giver’ or ‘ethnic-group rich’. Specifically, using the term fake news could be said to humiliate and/or cast aspersions upon Muslim and/or Hindu holy men. Recent searches of the New York Times found 869 instances of ‘fake news,’ while searches of The Washington Post found 1,352. None mentioned the historical dubiousness of the practice.
You can see this linguistic shift peaking around 1940 and continuing to this day.
Figure 4. Shift in Meaning Between Fakir and Faker During the 1940s
In retrospective, even the whole idea of fake news and post-truth is a bit of an over-reaction. The organizations that were disrupted the most by the appearance of unchecked, non-verifiable and inadequately sourced stories, were those upon which the world came to rely and depend upon to safeguard the information delivered to their audiences as verifiably true. To continue in these roles as stewards of truth, it was incumbent upon them to put into place new methods of testing information.
The unvarnished truth is that the dominant news gathering and distribution organizations fell behind the curve as sources of information multiplied by orders of magnitude. Neither did they comprehend the astonishingly rapid advances in computing power. Finally, the evolution of communication and social media tools advanced far more quickly than the old line media’s ability to adapt to and absorb them.
Decades of reporting on the decline of the US manufacturing base never seemed to register to old media as applicable lessons for themselves. In the mid-’80s, an HBS case study inquired as to which fared better — companies with strategic plans in place or those that had none. The answer: a dead heat. Apparently, companies without strategic plans were able to adjust more quickly to changing market conditions while companies with strategic plans all too often, steadfastly rode these plans straight into oblivion. (For more information on this phenomenon, check ou the first two editions of In Search of Excellence. Prepare to be shocked.)
What is Truth?
The debate over what is truth has been ongoing since the search for an ‘honest man’ by Diogenes the Cynic, the dialogues of Socrates as recorded by Plato, the Confessions of Augustine, the Summa of Aquinas, and the monastic scriptoria of Medieval Europe.
In the scriptoria of the Middle Ages, an elaborate system was constructed to ensure that no discrepancies were introduced into Scripture or highly-prized scholarly works — before the coming of movable type and the printing press. Can you imagine the decibel level of a discussion that played out over the misrepresentation of a single iota when dealing with the work of a Church Father, the Apostle Peter (or Paul), or the words of the Lord himself? This, of course, was complicated by the fact that there were few grammatical rules, little or no punctuation, no spaces between and among words, nor between sentences or paragraphs, and the like.
Even the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Harvard and Yale engaged in the same sort of tussle about the owner of Truth as the Right and Left are engaged in today. Harvard chose the Latin word Veritas (Truth) on its official seal, while Yale considered the matter closed by adding Lux et Veritas. (Light and Truth) to its own shield. Three hundred years later, in an academic world perhaps overly concerned with political correctness, Harvard won top honors for the Top Politically (in)Correct Word of 2016.
Watching the nightly news and reading the traditional (for the last two centuries, that is) media, one has the distinct sense that what they perceive as unprecedented almost chaotic circumstances is actually that of the normalcy of the new reality, that of communications at the speed of light that the internet has foisted upon us.
We keep hearing about this most unusual of election cycles, but this is only true when looking through the prism (and historical construct) of the traditional news gathering operations. What is called the 24-hour News Cycle is actually just the tip of the tsunami washing over the planet at an ever-quicker pace. Indeed, the nature of the beast hasn’t changed at all. It is our outdated techniques, that haven’t kept up with the new reality: News now emanates at the speed of thought, from tens of thousands or, even, millions of sources.
Can you imagine the uproar in the monastic world when documents would be would be produced with little or no vetting against the time-honored standards?
In 2008 GLM published an article, “Is Merriam-Webster its own Best Frenemy,” where we noted that its newest additions to its Collegiate Dictionary, were older than most entering college students at the time (28 years vs 18!) Indeed, for the most part, technology could solve most of the Post-truth and Fake News phenomena.
Since the turn of the 21st century, the Global Language Monitor (GLM) has named the Top Words of Global English. A decade earlier, the American Dialect Society began to name the Word of The Year for mostly American (and a bit of British) English with little or no use of the then emerging computer power. By the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, the BBC chose the Global Language Monitor to determine the Top English Words of the Decade worldwide while they chose an UK-based Linguist to highlight those of the UK.
One of the most surprising trends in the evolution of the Words of the Year over the last two decades is that they have become decidedly more parochial, and more trivial, as the century has progressed. Now there are about a dozen players, all competing for the same space, so the race has been one of dumbing down the various nominees and ultimate winner in an apparently. desperate in their attempt to seek the lowest common denominator, or even worse, to optimize entertainment value.
Perhaps most surprising of all is the apparent lack of preparation by the venerable incumbent organizations responsible for gathering, sifting through, and certifying information that then qualifies as verifiably newsworthy.
Apocalyptic language has been widely cited as word of the year worthy for the last several years — and rightly so. In fact, Apocalypse and Armageddon took Global Language Monitors’ honors as Top Global English Words of 2012. And though GLM’s proprietary algorithms have displayed a predictive element, it’s entirely possible that Apocalyptic language did indeed peak some five years too soon.
About the Global Language Monitor
In 2003, The Global Language Monitor (GLM) was founded in Silicon Valley by Paul J.J. Payack on the understanding that new technologies and techniques were necessary for truly understanding the world of Big Data, as it is now known.
Today, from its home in Austin, Texas GLM provides a number of innovative products and services that utilize its ‘algorithmic services’ to help worldwide customers protect, defend and nurture their branded products and entities. Products include ‘brand audits’ to assess the current status, establish baselines, and competitive benchmarks for current intellectual assets and brands, and to defend products against ambush marketing.
These services are currently provided to the Fortune 500, the Higher Education market, high technology firms, the worldwide print, and electronic media, as well as the global fashion industry, among others.
For more information, call 1.512.801-6823, email info@LanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.
Apocalyptic language has been widely cited as word of the year worthy for the last several years — and rightly so. In fact, Apocalypse and Armageddon took Global Language Monitors’ honors as Top Global English Words of 2012. And though GLM’s proprietary algorithms have displayed a predictive element, it’s entirely possible that Apocalyptic language did indeed peak some three years too soon.
The Top Words, Phrases, and Names since the Turn of the Century