Austerity or refudiate: Will the real word of the year please stand up?
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.
| December 20, 2010; 11:25 AM ET
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