"Austerity" is top-searched word in a rocky year

Mon Dec 20, 2010 12:17pm EST
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By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters Life!) - It provoked protests in European capitals from Athens to Brussels, hurt sales of Heineken beer and stole the spotlight at a June G20 summit in Canada. "Austerity" is now Merriam-Webster's top word of 2010.

"Austerity," which the Springfield, Massachusetts-based publisher defines as "enforced or extreme economy," spiked to the top of the company's top ten list based on the number of searches at its website, www.merriam-webster.com.

Coupled with No. 2 "pragmatic," the list reflects a year when searchers were still worried about a rocky world economy, said Peter Sokolowski, the dictionary's editor at large.

"It's a serious list for a serious year," Sokolowski said in a phone interview on Monday.

The word "austerity" cropped up most in connection with European governments' efforts to chop spending. Merriam-Webster did not disclose numbers on individual searches.

"Because it has such a clear implication for personal finance, it is easy to apply this to yourself," Sokolowski said. "That makes it a word that people look up.

It also had implications for Heineken, the Netherlands company that cited austerity measures as one of the factors weighing its beer sales this year.

The rest of the list included "moratorium," "socialism," "bigot," "doppelganger," "shellacking," ebullient," "dissident" and "furtive."   Continued...