A new list of the most common words and phrases in the English language in 2013 was overwhelmingly negative.
“404” — as in the error message that appears when a web page can’t load — and “toxic politics” both earned top spots, with “surveillance,” “drones” and “federal shutdown” also appearing on the list, from Global Language Monitor.
“We are surprised that the year came out with such a negative theme,” Paul JJ Payack, the founder of GLM, told Business Insider. “These are troubling times, but there are things like the rise of China, which causes some decline in the U.S. manufacturing system, that language ends up describing as a fail when really it’s more of a transformation.”
GLM uses an in-house technology to monitor word usage on the Internet, including social media platforms, the blogosphere, and 275,000 print and electronic global media publications. To quality, words, names, and phrases must be found globally, have a minimum of 25,000 citations, and a “breadth” and “depth” of usage, meaning they appear in various forms of media and all over the world.
Of course, words like “the” were used way more frequently than some of the words on these lists, but Payack said GLM’s rankings “distilled words that impact language in the news and global discussion.”
The Top Words of 2013
- 404: The near-universal numeric code for failure on the global Internet.
- Fail: The single word fail, often used as a complete sentence (Fail!) to signify failure of an effort, project, or endeavor.
- Hashtag: The “number sign” and “pound sign” reborn as the all-powerful Twitter hashtag.
- @Pontifex: The handle of the ever-more popular Pope Franciscus (Francis).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Sequestration: From Latin sequestrare, to hide away or isolate or to give up for safekeeping.
- Emancipate: Grows in importance as worldwide more women and children are enslaved in various forms of involuntary servitude.
The Top Phrases of 2013
- Toxic Politics: American-style scorch-and-burn political campaigns becoming the norm for democracies worldwide.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tread Lightly: The advice from Walter White of television’ s Breaking Bad, speaks volumes to many in the 21st century.
- Boston Strong: Signifying the resilience of Bostonians after the terror of the Marathon Bombing. Perhaps one day we will see Baghdad Strong.
- Marathon Bombing: Terrorist bombing at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon resulting in five deaths and 280 additional casualties.
- Chemical Weapons: As per the Geneva Convention, chemical weapons are any toxic chemical or its precursor that can cause death, injury, temporary incapacitation or sensory irritation through its chemical action.
- All Time High: Many see this all-too-prevalent description of many world markets as more of a warning that a cause for celebration.
- 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.)
The Top Names of 2013
- Pope Francis: The former Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church, born December 17, 1936 in Buenos Aires.
- ObamaCare: Five years after Obamamania, the president’s name is still in use though not always in a praiseworthy manner.
- NSA: The National Security Agency of the US collects intelligence through clandestine means of both foreign and (to the surprise of many) domestic sources.
- Ed Snowden: Edward Joseph Snowden, the former NSA contractor and CIA employee, who leaked classified United States, British and Israeli surveillance programs.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.