Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Top 10 Most Looked-Up Words of 2012? Lots of Political Malarkey. (+Video)

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Top 10 Most Looked-Up Words of 2012? Lots of Political Malarkey. (+Video)

Article excerpt

Political lexicon inundated more than just TV commercials and newspaper columns this election season. It also drove Americans to Merriam-Websters online dictionary, helping them make sense of the vitriol.

On Wednesday, the dictionary publisher shared its Top 10 words, based on the volume of user lookups at Merriam-Webster.com. Political words dominated the list. Sharing the No. 1 spot: socialism and capitalism.

"They're words that sort of encapsulate the zeitgeist. They're words that are in the national conversation," Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Websters editor at large, told the Associated Press. "The thing about an election year is it generates a huge amount of very specific interest."

Socialism any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods drew its largest lookup spikes during health-care reform coverage as well as during the political conventions and presidential debates.

Capitalism an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market followed similar traffic trends but was looked up slightly less often.

"With socialism and capitalism, it's clear that many people turned to the dictionary to help make sense of the commentary that often surrounds these words, said John Morse, president and publisher at Merriam-Webster, in a press release.

Making sense of the commentary meant understanding the negative connotations attached to both words, which was often injected into political debates and campaign ads.

Conservatives called President Obama a socialist, attacking wealth redistribution policies such as health-care reform, tax increases for the wealthy, and entitlement programs such as food stamps. Liberals hit back at Mitt Romney for his experience at his venture capital firm, Bain Capital, which they accused of killing jobs in the US. …

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