"Bailout," "change" crowned the words of 2008

Mon Dec 1, 2008 10:08pm EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - "Bailout" and "change" were crowned on Monday as the words of 2008 after a year in which a huge financial crisis hit the United States and Barack Obama celebrated a historic victory as the first U.S. black president.

Merriam-Webster Inc., the publisher of a leading U.S. dictionary, said "bailout" -- meaning "a rescue from financial distress" -- was the word that received the highest intensity of lookups over the shortest period of time.

John Morse, publisher of Merriam-Webster Inc., said this was not surprising given that the word ubiquitously featured in discussions of the presidency and fiscal policy.

He said the presidential campaign also produced voluminous hits for words like "vet," which ranked second in the 2008 list, "bipartisan," "misogyny," and the word used to describe both candidates on the Republican ticket, "maverick."

He said one of biggest event-related words of the year was "socialism" which came third in the list of the 10 top lookup requests.

"This word seems to have had two back-to-back boosts," said Morse, from the Massachusetts-based publisher, in a statement.

"The first was the question of whether federal bailouts of large banks were tantamount to socialism, and the second was 'Joe the Plumber' and other critics saying that U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama's economic plan was a form of socialism."

Rounding out the top 10 list were "trepidation," "precipice," "rogue," and "turmoil."

A separate survey on words used in the media and on the Internet by Texas-based Global Language Monitor spotted similar trends, with "change" coming top of its list -- the top political buzzword of the U.S. presidential campaign.   Continued...