Not that dictionaries are very exciting to begin with, but when Merriam-Webster announced its Word of the Year, we at least expected something, well, interesting.
But no, unlike the Oxford Dictionaries’ very relevant “vape,” which was announced last month, Merriam-Webster proclaimed this morning (Dec. 15) that their decision is “culture.” Yes, we know, snooze city.
“Culture” is not a new word, nor is it specifically relevant in 2014 more so than it has been in other years. “Culture” is a word you learn when you’re about 6 years old, and it’s the type of word that college professors ask you to define in front of an entire class because, admittedly, its definition is a bit tricky.
As defined by Merriam-Webster, culture is a noun meaning “the beliefs, customs, arts, etc., of a particular society, group, place, or time; a particular society that has its own beliefs, ways of life, art, etc.; a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business).”
To culture’s credit, Merriam-Webster makes their decision based on how commonly a word is looked up, not necessarily due to fads or fashion. “Culture” experienced a 15% increase in popularity over the past year, according to the dictionary. The biggest spikes in online searches for “culture” came during the back to school season in the fall (those mean college professors!) and during finals in the spring. Why’s that?
Because “culture,” frankly, is boring! “Culture” may be something very real that we pretend doesn’t exist as an exclusive or isolating factor in today’s world, but Merriam-Webster editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski commented that it’s a word we are all using much more often, especially in the workplace. (Who doesn’t want some of that “Google culture” at the office?) Still, it is a word that belongs largely inside of academia, where boring is always popular.
Runners-up included “nostalgia” (also boring and sad), “insidious” (great word and horror franchise), “legacy” (sorority girls be like “is this me?”), feminism (constantly changing), and “je ne sais quoi” (because using French is always à la mode and not doing so would make you de trop).
Really, such a dull choice shouldn’t come as a big surprise seeing that Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year in 2013 was “science.” But hey, maybe we’re just angry at “culture” because, as anyone from outside the US will tell you, we have none.
Merriam-Webster just announced its Word of the Year. Do you think it was a good choice? Read here!