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Top Word of 2013: ‘404’ followed by fail!, hashtag, @pontifex, and The Optic


Toxic Politics is the Top Phrase, and Pope Francis the Top Name

Documenting 2013 by English-language word usage

Global Language Monitor’s 14th Annual Survey of Global English

Number of Words in the English Language:  1,025,109.8 (January 1, 2014 estimate)

OK is most understood word in the world, again.

AUSTIN, Texas  November 6, 2013  — The Global Language Monitor has announced that ‘404’ is the Top Word, ‘Toxic Politics’ the Top Phrase  and Pope Francis the Top Name of 2013 in its 14th annual global survey of the English language.  404 was followed by fail, hashtag, @pontifex, and the Optic.  Rounding out the top ten were surveillance, drones, deficit, sequestration, and emancipate.  404 is the near-universal numeric code for failure on the global Internet, augmenting its original use as ‘page not found’.  The single word fail is often used together with 404 to signify complete failure of an effort, project, or endeavor.

“404 has gained enormous attention the world over this year as systems in place since World War II, which many see as the beginning of the contemporary era, are in distress or even failure.” said Paul JJ Payack, President and Chief Word Analyst of the Global Language Monitor.  

“The recent ObamaCare launch debacle in the US is only a representative example of a much wider system fail, from the political deadlock in the US Government, to the decline of the dollar, to the global web of intrigue and surveillance by the NSA, to the uncertainty regarding the European Union, and the on-going integration of China and other rising powers, such as India and Brazil into the global economic system.

Our top words, phrases and names this year represent some five continents, which continues to confirm the ever-expanding nature of the English language.”

The GLM Word, Phrase, and Names of the Year lists provide a history of each year since 2000 through English-language word usage.

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The Top Words of 2013 follow Rank / Word / Comments

  1. 404  —  The near-universal numeric code for failure on the global Internet.
  2. Fail — The single word fail, often used as a complete sentence (Fail!) to signify failure of an effort, project, or endeavor.
  3. Hashtag  — The ‘number sign” and ‘pound sign’ reborn as the all-powerful Twitter hashtag.
  4. @Pontifex — The Hashage of the ever-more popular Pope Franciscus (Francis).
  5. The Optic — The ‘optic’ is threatening to overtake ‘the narrative’ as the Narrative overtook rational discourse. Does not bode well for an informed political discussion.
  6. Surveillance — The revelation of the unprecedented extent of spying by the NSA into lives of ordinary citizens to the leaders of the closest allies of the US.
  7. Drones  — Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that are piloted remotely or by on-board computers used for killing scores or even hundreds of those considered enemy combatants of the US.
  8. Deficit — Looks like deficit-spending will plague Western democracies for at least the next decade.  Note to economists of all stripes:  reducing the rate of increase of deficit spending still  increases the deficit.
  9. Sequestration — Middle English sequestren, from Old French, from Latin sequestrareto hide away or isolate or to give up for safekeeping.
  10. Emancipate — Grows in importance as worldwide more women and children are enslaved in various forms of involuntary servitude.
  11. Filibuster — Extended debate in a legislative body to delay or prevent a vote on the matter.  Originally used to describe  Caribbean pirates  (freebooters) from the Spanish,  filibustero, and French, flibustier.
  12. Nano — Nano-technology, nano-machines, nano-weapons, some too horrible to contemplate (see Bill Joy’s self-replicating nanobots  resulting in a world of  ‘grey goo’.)
  13. Twerking —  A dance mimicking various sexual postures and acts  made famous by Miley Cyrus..
  14. Deadlock — A generation ago it was called Checks and Balances, to the founders it was a delicate balancing of powers.  
  15. Franken- — Top trending prefix on the list. Expanded in meaning to include any human-instigated activity that inadvertently spins out of control (see nano-).
  16. Meme — Internet Memes can best be conceived as Internet thoughts or ideas that are propagated through all varieties of electronic communications.
  17. Stalemate — Failure of all sides to reach a settlement or agreement. Example:  lack of a cease fire in the Syrian Civil War (100,000+ deaths and 1,000,000+ refugees).
  18. The Cloud — Where your data lands after you press <enter> (not to be mistaken for a play by Aristophanes).
  19. Phony —  One of President Obama’s favorite criticisms of his opponents, synonymous with bogus, spurious, sham, and fake.
  20. Comet — A  ‘long-haired’ celestial object.  The late ’13 comet was predicted as the brightest in a thousand years (Fail.)
OK is most understood word in the world, again.  See more.

The Top Phrases of 2013

Rank / Phrase / Comment

  1. Toxic Politics — American-style scorch-and-burn political campaigns becoming the norm for democracies worldwide.
  2. Federal Shutdown — To the Founders it was a delicate balancing of powers. A generation ago it was called Checks and Balances,   Today we call it Federal Shutdown.
  3. Global Warming/Climate Change – Add ‘anthropogenic’ warming to this fact:  the existence of  the Bering Land Bridge 20,000 years ago suggests that the Oceans were some 100 meters lower than today.
  4. Federal Deficit –  The difference between what the government takes in and what it spends.  Ten of the twelve largest global economies are running large deficits.  The exceptions? China and Germany.
  5. Tread Lightly — The advice from Walter White of television’ s Breaking Bad, speaks volumes to many in the 21st century.
  6. Boston Strong — Signifying the resilience of Bostonians after the terror of the Marathon Bombing.  Perhaps one day we will see Baghdad Strong.
  7. Marathon Bombing — Terrorist bombing at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon resulting in five deaths  and 280 additional casualties.
  8. Chemical Weapons — Geneva Convention: any toxic chemical or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation or sensory irritation through its chemical action.
  9. All Time High — Many see this all-too-prevalent description of many world markets as more of a warning that a cause for celebration.
  10. Rogue nukes — Sources state that Iran can now assemble a bomb in two weeks.  This is going from hypothetical to reality.  (If true, International Inspection Effort:  Fail.)
  11. Near-Earth Asteroid —  Admittedly more of a space rock than an asteroid but it did create significant property damage as well as injuries before crashing into a Russian lake.
  12. Arab Spring — A faint reminder … Still no successor term to the Arab Spring.
  13. Solar max — OK, so space scientists now say that 2014 (and not 2013) is the actual peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle.
  14. Big Data  — No 1 on the 2013’s  Tech List, ushering in a global transformation in how data is processed, analyzed, and transformed into solutions.
  15. Ethical/Sustainable Fashion– A global movement that includes designs from indigenous communities and emerging peoples.

 . The Top Names of 2013 Rank /Name / Comments.

  1. Pope Francis —  The  former Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, born December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires.
  2. ObamaCare — Five years after Obamamania, the president’s name is still in use though not always in a praiseworthy manner.
  3. NSA — The National Security Agency of the US collects intelligence through clandestine means of both foreign and (to the surprise of many) domestic sources.
  4. Ed Snowden — Edward Joseph Snowden, the former NSA contractor and CIA employee, who leaked classified United States, British and Israeli surveillance programs.
  5. Kate Middleton — Officially, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, the fashion and style icon, the future Queen of the Realm, wife of the Prince of Wales, and mother of Prince George of Cambridge.  5a.  HRH Georgie — Nickname of Prince George of Cambridge, son of ‘Wills and Kate”.
  6. IRS — The Internal Revenue Service, the tax-collecting (or revenue enhancement) body of the US Government, that was in the spotlight for allegedly selectively auditing right-wing targets.
  7. Ted Cruz — Rafael Edward Cruz, the Tea Party supporter and Senator from Texas, who led a filibuster on the floor of the US Senate for 21 hours and nineteen minutes in opposition to the Affordable Care Act.  
  8. Chris Christie  — Governor of New Jersey who achieved national fame while touring the devastation wreaked on the Jersey Shore by Superstorm Sandy with President Obama.
  9. Tea Party — A Conservative political movement in the US, that takes its name from the Massachusetts protesters dumping tea into Boston Harbor in 1773 to highlight their call for ‘no taxation without representation’
  10. Marathon Bombers —  Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the alleged perpetrators of the Terrorist bombing at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon resulting in five deaths  and 280 additional casualties.
  11. Malala Yousafzai  — The Pakistani girl shot by terrorists for promoting the right to education for  girls. 
  12. Xi Jinping — Replaces Hu Jintao, under whose administration China has seen a decade of extraordinary growth.
  13. President Obama – ‘Hope and Change’ retreats further into history as Obama seeks to find a better second term fates that his immediate predecessors.
  14. Hassan Rouhani — Newly elected president of Iran and successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  The Iranian presidency is a largely ceremonial post.
  15. Sochi Olympics — The XXII Olympic Winter Games to take place 7 to 23 February 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
Methodology:  GLM’s Word of the Year rankings are based upon actual word usage throughout the English-speaking world, which now numbers more than 1.83 billion people.  To qualify for these lists, the words, names, and phrases must be found globally, have a minimum of 25,000 citations. and 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.
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 275,000 print and electronic global media (not limited to the English-language-based media), as well as new social media sources as they emerge.
Top Words of the Decade
The Top Words of the First Decade of the 21st Century, including: Global Warming, 9/11, and Obama outdistanced Bailout, Evacuee, and Derivative; Google, Surge, Chinglish, and Tsunami followed. Climate Change was top phrase; Heroes was the top name.
The Top Words of the Individual Years of the 21st Century thus far follow:
Top Word: 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 Spillcam, No. 2 Vuvuzela, No. 3 The Narrative
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 Heroes
Top Word: Chad
Top Phrase: Dot.com
Top Name: W (Dubya)
About The Global Language Monitor
Austin-Texas-based Global Language Monitor analyzes and catalogues the latest trends in word usage and word choices and their impact on the various aspects of culture, with a particular emphasis upon Global English.
For more information, call 1.512.815.8836, email info@LanguageMonitor.com, or visit www.LanguageMonitor.com.



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