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Posted at 11:25 AM ET, 12/20/2010

Austerity or refudiate: Will the real word of the year please stand up?

By Melissa Bell
(Charles Krupa/AP)

According to Merriam-Webster, the most searched-for word this year was "austerity," giving the economical noun the vaunted position of the dictionary's "Word of the Year" for 2010.

Earlier this month, though, Sarah Palin's "refudiate" took that very same honor from the Oxford English Dictionary.

(A quick refresher: "Refudiate," which came into being via a Sarah Palin tweet, is used loosely to mean "reject." "Austerity" came to prominence after austerity measures were passed by European governments to battle the debt crisis.)

So an American word gets top honors in the U.K., and the word that has Europe in riots takes top honors in the United States? What's going on here?

Merriam-Webster does base its Word of the Year choice on the most-searched words, and it's understandable that Americans may have searched away when they heard a word that Europeans knew all too well. And perhaps the Oxford English Dictionary wanted to show support for Palin's wordplay, since she did invoke William Shakespeare, the patron saint of English word creation, when critics derided her tweet:

"Refudiate," "misunderestimate," "wee-wee'd up." English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!

But then what word should take top honors? Is "refudiate" really the worldwide word? Is "austerity"? If that doesn't confuse matters enough, the Global Language Monitor says "spillcam" tops its list, and the American Dialect Society won't release its choice until January.

By Melissa Bell  | December 20, 2010; 11:25 AM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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The Global Language Monitor crowns the Global English Word of the Year and have been doing so since 2000. We try to take all bias out of the decision by scouring the Internet, Blogosphere, Social Media and the Top 75,000 global media and find the top words associated with the major world events of the year. So what we present is not the opinion of a small coterie of (admittedly expert) editors but the actual words used by the 1.58 billion people now using some form of Global English.

We considered Refudiate as the Top Word but the numbers simply didn't support it (especially globally). When something is in the forefront of the global media for months on end (e.g., Obamamania), it certainly has a better chance of making or even topping the list, hence Spillcam.

The only question with Spillcam was whether the word (or lexical unit in this case) was more appropriately labeled as 'BP Spillcam'. Again, the word was more frequently associated without BP.

Posted by: PJJP | December 20, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"Junk" as in "Don't touch my Junk" with Junk now newly defined as ‘taxes cuts’, ‘benefits’ and ‘bodily extremities’. It’s certainly the phrase of the year.

Posted by: Airborne82 | December 20, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Refudiate is not a word.

Posted by: bushpile | December 20, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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